Every expert says this is the most dangerous time. You have crossed the man who has stolen your life. His rage is volcanic; his hurt, vast and eternal.
You flinch at every sound; look back at everyone walking behind you. Is it him?
This is what millions of Americans are feeling now that they have left their abuser, Donald Trump.
As The Guardian noted this week: “Think about the temper tantrums, the refusal to accept reality, mood swings, fear of reprisal and a sense of looming danger: all are hallmarks of controlling and abusive behaviour. Whether we like it or not, we’re all trapped in an abusive relationship with Trump at the moment.”
That same piece said it will take time for the effects to wear off. And I must say my world seems oddly silent since Trump lost on November 3rd. It took him three weeks, until yesterday, in fact, to answer questions from the media for the first time since the election, and he’s basically been in hiding, in a monumental sulk, since. Scarily silent.
Back in June, I wrote about how a lockdown traps thousands of women in their homes with their abusers, and how we should treat women’s shelters as both essential services and front-line workers during the pandemic. Yes, it’s bad to have a local restaurant go under; it’s much worse to have a local women’s shelter shut its doors.
But now that Toronto is into its second lockdown, with the weather ahead getting worse and not better like it was in June, the prospects for these women are even more dire. As one abuse hotline worker said: “[This time] women were calling with really limited opportunity to talk. It meant going to the bathroom to call, going into a closet.”
The second lockdown is twice as hard on women’s shelters as well. Social distancing has effectively cut their number of beds in half, and the number of women calling for help has doubled. The Assaulted Women’s Helpline usually gets 4,000 calls a month; now, that’s doubled. I got on to their website to learn more and the first thing to pop up was this: “Safety Alert: Your computer can be monitored by your abuser and is impossible to clear your tracks completely. If you are afraid your internet activity might be monitored, call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, free at 1-866-863-0511 or TTY 1-866-863-7868,” followed by advice on how to Hide Your Tracks.
A national survey released this week by Women’s Shelters Canada revealed that the abuse of women rose in frequency during the pandemic. During the first lockdown which began in March, six in ten shelters reported a decrease in calls for help. From June to October, “as soon as things started up again, we see a huge increase in crisis calls and requests for admittance,” said Krys Maki, the research and policy manager for Women’s Shelters Canada.
Worse still, during the first lockdown, there was a rise in both violence against women and the severity of that violence. These include more physical attacks resulting in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings.
So if you’re looking for a way to help out in the pandemic, think of the women newly-trapped or re-trapped at home with their abusers and the shelters who are a desperate phone call away. Here’s a list of women’s shelters in Toronto and I urge you to donate to the one closest to you. If you’re from outside Toronto, a similar list in your city is just a Google search away.
Abuse is not a problem that money alone can solve. But giving money sure beats doing nothing. Because while most of us are counting the days until the vaccine comes, for thousands of women in Canada, it won’t save them.