The issue of domestic violence is complex and is often seen as a personal or private issue. It can be all too easy to turn a blind eye, especially if you’re not the one being affected.
Women’s Crisis Service of Waterloo Region (WCSWR) reports that, on average, they serve 1080 women through their outreach program, shelter 272 women annually, and receive nine calls each day from a woman in crisis.
Launched in the fall of 2019 by WCSWR as a blog series, She is Your Neighbour explores the prevalence of abuse and domestic violence.
“Our aim is to raise awareness around the prevalence of domestic violence and really have our community own this problem, and [we] feel like everyone has a role to play in ending domestic violence,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region (WCSWR) said.
With podcasts becoming fairly popular, gaining more interest with the public, this September, the project evolved into a podcast called She Is Your Neighbour, with new episodes being released every Wednesday for a grand total of nine episodes.
“You can have a different kind of level of impact or power in terms of actually hearing people tell their story and then having somebody interview them. So I just think it’s kind of taking it up a notch, going from the blog series to the podcast series,” Hutton said.
The podcast series features interviews with community members and leaders who have experienced domestic violence, emphasizing the point that those experiencing it could truly be your neighbour.
A variety of topics are covered, from domestic violence and the drug trade, violence against Indigenous women and girls, barriers for transgender youth in need of support, intergenerational trauma, violence against Black women, and more.
“This year we’ve gone a bit deeper and had more conversations around, really the complexities of domestic violence, because it’s very layered and very complex,” Hutton said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue has become even more intricate and layered. Statistics Canada reported that domestic violence rose by about 30 per cent across the country during the pandemic.
The virality of the pandemic requires friends, families and neighbours to socially distance from one another. This has consequences for the already hidden issue of domestic violence.
“During the start of the pandemic, we actually saw less women reach out to us,” Hutton said
Hutton believes this happened because women were being isolated with their abusive partners, leaving them with no safe options to reach out.
While WCSWR has been tackling the issue of domestic violence against women for many years, Hutton says that they are seeing rates go up rather than down.
“There could be a bunch of reasons for that. Maybe more people are coming forward, and that’s another kind of aim of the project — really to remove the secrecy and the shame that could be associated with domestic violence.”
Hutton said that many people may have myths and misconceptions about who domestic violence can happen to. The podcast series shows that domestic violence doesn’t only impact a certain population, it can impact anybody.
“I think if people learn more, they will feel a greater ownership of the problem because it’s really a social problem,” Hutton said.