How to be an Ally to Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence has serious physical, emotional, social and economic consequences. It is also terrifying, dehumanizing and isolating for the person experiencing it, as well as anyone in their life who is trying to support them through it.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this isolation has only been exacerbated, and on top of that, reports show a 20-30% increase in intimate partner violence in parts of Canada.
As a friend, family member or colleague of someone experiencing intimate partner violence, it can be extremely difficult to know how to support them. Even if we aren't supporting a friend or loved one, but care about the societal impacts of intimate partner violence, it can be difficult to know where to start.
November 25 to December 10 mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Here's how you can be an ally to victims and survivors of intimate partner violence year-round:
Listen and learn from people with lived experience. This is not the time to tell someone what they need, or what may have worked for others. Every person's journey of leaving violence is different and completely up to them. Let them know you are there to support whatever they want to do, whenever they are ready to do it. Be patient! Reassure them that you are a safe, listening ear whenever they need it.
Never underestimate how much it can mean to someone experiencing abuse to be heard, believed and have their feelings validated. This may be the first time they are hearing confirmation that what they are going through is not okay. Often abusers will lead victims to believe they are 'imagining it' or 'making it up' and that people won't believe them if they ask for help - this is known as 'gaslighting' and is a common form of psychological abuse. Let the person know you hear them, you believe them and you will support them.
3. Speak out
To end violence against women, we need systemic change in our society, education and legislature. Add your voice to the fight and help us to influence our provincial and federal decision-makers! You can Take Action with YWCA Canada as we campaign for law reforms, make submissions to government and undertake research reports.
Bystander Intervention is an extremely valuable way to support those who are experiencing violence, however must be done safely and with the consent of the person you are trying to help. They know their situation better than anyone and often they may fear for their lives or the lives of their children or even you when it comes to intervening. Determining when to step in and when to seek outside support is essential in order to protect everyone involved. Read our blog 'How to Safely Intervene if you Witness Violence' for more.
It can be hard to know where to start in the fight to end intimate partner violence. There are a huge amount of organizations across Canada working every day to support victims and survivors, as well as campaigning for the systemic changes required to bring this to an end. You can support organizations working to end violence by donating money or volunteering your time. To support the YWCA's work, please visit our Donation Page.