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Donated Cellphones Provide Lifeline for Survivors of Violence

Across BC, anti-violence service providers have reported an increase in gender-based violence along with a corresponding demand for help as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to UN Women, with 90 countries in lockdown, four billion people were sheltering at home because of COVID-19 during the month of April. While the lockdown was a necessary protective measure, unfortunately, it also brought with it a different danger since lockdowns increase isolation as well as time spent with an abusive partner. With tensions mounting from health and financial concerns, a lockdown can become a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors.

In response, Shaw Communications and Rogers stepped forward to support increased safety and confidentiality by providing complimentary cellphones along with voice and data plans to the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC). These cellphones provide an essential digital lifeline for those experiencing domestic abuse, allowing women to stay connected with EVA BC’s network of frontline anti-violence service providers.

As a part of that network, the Sources Community Resources Society (SOURCES) received five cellphones for use in its trauma counselling program – a donation that created both relief and appreciation. “The phones we received are being used to help women access counselling with us on the phone or via virtual sessions,” says Deirdre Goudriaan, Trauma Counselling Manager for SOURCES. “These phones come with a data plan and are available for the duration of their counselling sessions and are then handed in to be used by the next person. The value of these phones is tremendous.”

Because of the critical nature of its services, many SOURCES programs have remained open during the pandemic, although modifications have been made to ensure the safety of both clients and staff. With so many women locked into violent situations, new methods of connecting were clearly needed and, like many other workplaces, technology became an obvious choice.

As office meetings moved into the virtual world so did counselling sessions and access to social services. However, without a donated cellphone and data plan, that virtual world would have remained out of reach for many abuse survivors in BC.

“Client reactions have been fabulous…so much joy and appreciation has been expressed to us for the use of these phones. Lots of deep gratitude has come our way!” Goudriaan adds.

In April, as part of its “Comfort and Care During COVID-19” fundraising campaign, SOURCES opened a Mental Wellness Resource and Referral Line that is available to all women, men and LGBTQ2S+ individuals. Monitored by a team of compassionate and experienced trauma counsellors, callers receive a response within 24 hours (Monday through Friday) that provides access to resources and referrals. All phone messages are confidential and videoconferencing via Zoom is provided, if desired.

“Thanks to a generous donation from Soroptimist International, the Bosa Family Foundation and the Vancouver Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund, we’ve been able to provide the community with a much-needed referral line that we didn’t have before,” says David Young, CEO of SOURCES.

“This line is providing hope and support for many who have none during this pandemic,” he adds.