Using video to address domestic violence in Newfoundland - Labrador

Content note: This story contains discussions on domestic violence that may be upsetting to some.

By: Kathy Mueller

Elizabeth (not her real name) is a survivor.

Of emotional, mental, and physical abuse.

By her former boyfriend.

“It was cat and mouse,” she says, referring to the verbal abuse which quickly escalated to physical confrontations. “He was getting control of me. He would set me off, get me all upset with his behaviour and then calm me down.”

It’s people in situations like Elizabeth’s that “Violence Prevention Avalon East” in Newfoundland and Labrador is trying to reach. An alliance of community and government agencies, it is dedicated to ending violence in homes and communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made that task much more challenging.

Offices closed. Face-to-face counselling was put on hold. All while calls for support jumped by 75 percent and people were now living in isolation with their abusers.

A woman standing at a window looking out.“I would get calls from women hiding in their closets or from teachers who, during a Google Meet chat with students, would say a child had disclosed they were witnessing a lot of violence at home,” says Valerie Barter, Executive Director, Violence Prevention Avalon East.

It was out of this increased demand for support that the “Unsafe at Home” campaign was born. The online campaign provides support to people who are being abused, advice on what red flags to watch out for, and where abusers themselves can find help.

Realizing that some people respond better to a visual medium than the printed word, and that key audiences were being missed, the organization is now taking the next step of converting its resources into videos. “If you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s easier to watch a 3- or 4-minute clip saying this is where support is, this is what red flags look like, here’s what you can do,” explains Barter.

One video of the 10 they hope to produce is already up on the website, introducing viewers to Violence Prevention Avalon East. To ensure a wider audience is being reached some finishing touches are still required such as translating all the videos into three Indigenous languages, as well as providing sign language translation. They’ll also be disseminated among approximately 100 service providers across Newfoundland and Labrador.

“While we serve the Eastern Avalon region of the province, by sharing these resources with our community partners, we are essentially reaching the entire province,” says Barter.

The Canadian Red Cross is funding the continuation of this work thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund granting program. The funding is being used to support the video production and translation, as well as the hiring of two coordinators. Care packages including hygiene products, food cards and crafts for kids are also being distributed to those most in need.

As a survivor of domestic violence, Elizabeth says these resources would have helped her immensely.

“It would have made me not feel so alone,” she says. “It would have helped me to know what things to look for. At the time I knew it wasn’t right, but I just convinced myself that this is just part of a relationship. You just work through it and hope it stops or ends or changes. I probably wouldn’t have had to go through everything I went through if this material had been available two years ago.”

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or the emergency phone number in your area. If you are experiencing domestic violence and abuse, most provinces and territories have a domestic violence phone line and crisis lines available to provide support.

Need Help In A Crisis? - Text CONNECT to 686868 to reach Kids Help Phone counsellors; or call Crisis Services Canada toll-free at 1-833-456-4566.

This program was supported thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada's Emergency Community Support Fund.

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