Kitchener-Waterloo

Online course offers ways to safely help someone experiencing domestic violence

The pandemic has led to isolating situations that have heightened concerns over domestic violence, says a group that works with YW Kitchener-Waterloo and the YWCA of Cambridge in offering an online program on ways to help someone experiencing abuse.

Network of Neighbours Intervention Training program helps build knowledge, skills to address abuse

An advocacy group says research indicates domestic violence has become more of an issue since the start of the pandemic last year. (Guy Leblanc/CBC)

The pandemic has led to isolating situations that have heightened concerns over domestic violence, says a group that's worked with local agencies on an online program offering ways to help someone experiencing abuse.

The Network of Neighbours Intervention Training was developed by the advocacy group Feminist Shift along with YW Kitchener-Waterloo and the YWCA of Cambridge.

Rachel Walser, advocacy co-ordinator of the program, said some participants have witnessed or been bystanders to abusive situations, and were looking for tools so they could react differently should such situations arise again.

"In one of our sections, we actually talk about things that keep people from getting involved," said Walser.

"One of those things is a thought that, you think this is a private matter, but the reality is abuse is not a private matter. It is an exploitation of power over another human being."

The Network of Neighbours Intervention Training was developed by the advocacy group Feminist Shift along with YW Kitchener-Waterloo and the YWCA of Cambridge. (Submitted by Network of Neighbours)

The course offers techniques including on how to:

  • Defuse an escalating situation.
  • Support someone fleeing violence.
  • Have a prevention talk.
  • Make the most of calling the police when the need arises.

Recognizing abuse

Cases of domestic violence have increased since the beginning of the pandemic, according to reports. 

On its website, Feminist Shift cites a Women's Shelters Canada survey of 266 shelters that found 52 per cent of women admitted to them during this pandemic reported experiencing "much more severe" or "somewhat more severe" abuse.

Jennifer Gordon, director of advocacy with the YW Kitchener-Waterloo and head of the Feminist Shift Initiative, said while there are obvious signs domestic abuse may be happening — such as yelling, physical fights or "dishes crashing" — there are also hidden signs.

"You might [notice] that a person disappeared from the landscape of your community, for example. Or their time is limited. They talk about things like, 'Oh, I just have 10 minutes' or, 'Oh, I'm not available'. They might be cancelling plans a lot," said Gordon.

"[Other] subtle cues, like, 'Oh, I have to really walk on eggshells because my partner is sleeping until noon' or 'the kids are learning great things because my partner is hard on the kids.'"

The program, which is two hours online at various times of the day, started in the spring with some initial funding. Additional funding extended the program until Oct. 1, but Gordon and Walser hope they receive more funding to keep it going.

A local group has been helping neighbours learn how to recognize and be an ally in domestic violence cases. It's through a free online course available called the Network of Neighbours Intervention Training. Coordinators Jennifer Gordon and Rachel Walser spoke to CBC KW about the program. 6:13

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