Advocates call for culturally appropriate services for Indigenous women facing violence
New Road to Safety report outlines increase in violence against Indigenous women during pandemic
A new report entitled The Road to Safety says Indigenous women and gender-diverse people in B.C. have been enduring a significant increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, highlighting the need for culturally appropriate services.
The report compiled by the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Battered Women's Support Services was based on information gathered from 95 people, including survivors and support workers, using an online survey from October 2021 to January 2022.
Leslie Varley, the executive director of B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, said the survey of Indigenous women and gender-diverse people shows widespread racism-based fear by gender-diverse and Indigenous women seeking services.
"They are afraid they are going to be negatively judged. They are worrying that if they raise this issue with the police, they are going to end up with their children being apprehended."
The research showed 77 per cent of Indigenous women surveyed experienced an increase in intimate partner violence during the pandemic.
According to the report, 67 per cent of those surveyed said they faced challenges in accessing services during the pandemic, and about 30 per cent indicated that essential support services weren't available during that time.
Angela Marie MacDougall, the executive director of Battered Women's Support Services, acknowledged the report clearly identifies the challenges Indigenous women face getting help.
MacDougall said even within the anti-violence movement, there is "institutionalized racism and discrimination in terms of funding but also in terms of how service providers respond to Indigenous survivors."
Survivors, front-line workers suggest solutions
Varley listed five recommendations survey participants made that would help prevent further violence and support survivors, including early intervention and an overhaul of the anti-violence service system, which includes training more Indigenous support workers.
She said that emergency transportation for indigenous women and gender-diverse people while fleeing violence needs to be put in place, particularly outside of the Lower Mainland, the far north and central B.C. and that women need to be empowered with more access to housing and child care.
Varley also said there needs to be an overhaul of how police and the justice system respond to intimate partner violence.
In April, the provincial government announced $5.3 million to Indigenous communities and organizations to help end violence against Indigenous people, particularly women and girls. The B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) is responsible for managing and distributing the money to Indigenous organizations.
Varley said the money will be used to provide more support services and culturally safe housing for indigenous women and girls fleeing violence.