The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented time for post-secondary institutions across Canada. Campus closures, the pivot to virtual classrooms, and new health and safety measures have left a significant mark on campus life. The pandemic has deeply impacted gender-based violence intervention and prevention efforts in Canada. It has exacerbated pre-existing challenges while also inspiring services to adapt and innovate.
The impacts of COVID-19 on learning and research have often been the focus, while less attention has been paid to how the pandemic affected the work to prevent and address gender-based violence at post-secondary institutions. Yet we know that gender-based violence is a global problem that has been categorized as a shadow pandemic by the UN, and that post-secondary institutions have a significant role to play in prevention education, response, and policy leadership on this issue.
Courage to Act was curious to know more and bring attention to the impact of the pandemic on efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence at post-secondary institutions in Canada. We initiated a national survey to hear from those involved in gender-based violence efforts at post-secondary institutions. In January 2021, and then again in March 2022, we invited frontline workers, educators, student leaders, and administrators in Canada with knowledge of gender-based violence intervention and prevention on campuses to participate in an online survey. We invited them to comment on the impacts of COVID-19, as well as innovations and priorities for preventing and addressing gender-based violence at post-secondary institutions moving forward.
Through this survey, important themes emerged and we identified six major lessons for post-secondary institutions to consider. These lessons provide insight into how the movement to end campus gender-based violence can build back the momentum that was lost due to COVID-19.
Lesson #1: When the pandemic emerged in 2020, many post-secondary institutions lost momentum on the work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence
Lesson #2: Gender-based violence campus workers have important expertise on gender-based violence and COVID-19 to bring to the table
Lesson #3: Campus gender-based violence workers identified emerging trends in gender-based violence prevention and response during COVID-19
Lesson #4: Building a “just” recovery from COVID-19 presents an opportunity to listen & learn from gender-based violence campus workers and advocates
Lesson #5: Moving forward, there is a strong need for prioritization and capacity-building for gender-based violence prevention and intervention at post-secondary institutions
Lesson #6: Gender-based violence campus workers and advocates cannot do this work alone
There have been increased demands with providing services on campus through the pandemic, yet post-secondary institutions have not engaged the necessary resources to address these demands and allow for the innovation necessary to meet them. Further, staff are stretched thin as post-secondary institutions have focused their pandemic response on offering PPE and creating virtual classes, while survivors are too often an afterthought. Post-secondary institutions have to take seriously that prevention efforts are essential for protecting students, and that survivors on campus need effective support backed by resourced staff and faculty.
Read the full report, Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey of Gender-Based Violence Services at Canada’s Post-Secondary Institutions, written by Jessica Wright and Salina Abji, here:
Suggested Reference : Courage to Act. Six Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic for Post-Secondary Institutions. Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/lessons-from-the-pandemic.