Since 1995, the Government of BC has dedicated one week in April to the Prevention of Violence Against Women, as “a movement to encourage the public to express its commitment to reducing and preventing violence against women, as well as to raise awareness about the unacceptability of violence against women, youth and children in our communities” (BCSTH). This year’s Prevention Week is taking place from April 12-18th.

In the past, the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society has partnered with local businesses to promote prevention week through free talks, classes, and activities along with an annual Women’s March. This year, Prevention Week will take on a different spin as the shelter explores new ways to spread awareness and unite the community, in light of the new COVID-19 restrictions. 

Due to social distancing measures, the shelter’s outreach coordinators, like many others, have also modified their programs in order to continue with weekly activities, through virtual means. The Zoom platform makes it possible for new clients to join and for existing clients to maintain connectedness and consistency. As with any of the shelter’s activities, these are free open to the public throughout the week, and the only requirement is a working phone or computer. Children are also welcome to attend the events. This year’s events include yoga (via Zoom) on Tuesday, April 14 from 4-5 pm, and a vision board making workshop on Thursday, April 16 from 4-5:30 pm.  The men’s group will also be meeting on Wednesday and Friday this week, from 4:30-6pm.  To participate, please contact the program coordinators: Anneliese Neweduk at 250 814 8387 or [email protected]; or Taha Attiah at 250 837 1572 or [email protected].

Prevention begins with awareness

As part of it’s Prevention Week outreach, the shelter hopes to spread awareness on safety during this time, show support to the local community, and provide relevant information, as the world migrates towards the digital sphere. The COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently increased the risk of many different types of abuse to flourish, from psychological, physical, cyber, and more. We want to make sure people can educate themselves to make smart choices when online, as well as provide resources for people who are experiencing any form of abuse.

COVID-19 has created a wake of disruptions to our community – from lifestyle and exercise restrictions to work, food, and financial insecurity. The world is seeing how decreased physical contact with friends, family, and community, combined with increased time indoors has created a ‘perfect storm’.  With these added stressors, we are seeing an increase in gender-based violence (GBV), specifically towards women and children all over the world, including British Columbia. 

For the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Prevention Week 2020 includes spreading awareness around internet safety and cyber-abuse. While applications such as Facetime, Skype, and Zoom offer invaluable ways to stay connected with friends and family, our internet and social media presence can also be taken advantage of and abused online.

The RCMP has warned British Columbians to be conscious about what they are posting online, and to be aware of scams, cyber criminals, and fraudulent activity that has been circulating through the province. The RCMP has stated “do not respond to unsolicited email, texts or phone calls. Don’t click on any links or give any information about yourself”. Learn more.

The Canadian Centre of Cyber Security has also noted increased reports of “malicious online actors” using COVID-19 in phishing and malware scams, making it more important than ever to ensure that information on COVID-19 is coming from credible sources. The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 awareness resource page, for example, is an excellent source. The BC Centre for Disease Control also provides regular  updates, as well as the the Government of BC’s COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information page. For local information updates visit Revelstoke Life and The Chamber of Commerce

Children and teenagers are also especially vulnerable to internet predators. Given that screen time may be increasing as a result of remote school and the closures of parks and other facilities, websites such as Protect Kids Online and Cybertip have great tools to help parents talk to their children about internet safety, and provide tips on how to monitor usage. 

While we are all feeling the effects of COVID-19, populations that are already vulnerable could be even more susceptible to abuse and/or neglect, due to the loss of usual social support systems. The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter, Community Response Network (CRN), and Revelstoke Hospice Society have teamed up with local businesses and volunteers to offer a variety of support to this community. If you or someone you know might appreciate some additional emotional support or help with obtaining essential goods and services, please contact one of the shelter’s outreach coordinators (listed above) or Lisa Cyr at [email protected]

The best way to partake in Prevention week 2020 is to spread awareness, educate yourself, and help educate others. We urge the Revelstoke community to continue looking out for one another; check in on your elderly neighbor, stay at home, and join in on a virtual activity. If home is not safe for you or someone you know, the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter is available to help with safety planning and added support. For those inquiring to stay in the transition house, screenings will be done by phone only. The shelter’s screening process has been updated to reflect COVID-19 guidelines and regulations put forth by the British Columbia Society of Transition Houses and the BC Ministry of Health. Read more about how the Shelter is adjusting to the new reality.  To reach the 24/7 crisis line call 250-837-1111 and to reach the office line call 403-837-4382. If you are in an emergency, call 9-1-1. More information and resources on gender based violence.

Anneliese Neweduk is the Moving Forward women’s outreach group program coordinator.