Safety Resource Card: Connecting Survivors of Violence to Support

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
July 26, 2018

Connecting Survivors of Violence to Support

An updated, comprehensive, and easy to understand guide to finding help for survivors of violence.

Vancouver, B.C. —Since its initial launch in March 2006, tens of thousands of copies of The Safety Resource Card have been shared throughout Metro Vancouver. The first of its kind, the Safety Resource Card contains dozens of useful phone numbers.

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is pleased to announce the update of the card, to include updated phone numbers and information including the updated operating hours of BWSS, now including Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. The card also includes other emergency/crisis numbers, transition house numbers and specific support services in the Downtown Eastside.

Fifty percent of women in Canada have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. On average, a woman is murdered by her intimate partner every week in Canada.

“Gender-based violence in all forms — sexual harassment, sexual violence, physical abuse and femicide is truly an epidemic in Canada –there is no time to waste”, says BWSS Executive Director Angela Marie MacDougall “The Safety Resource Card provides survivors of violence with direct contact to essential services in Metro Vancouver, including BWSS, that can be life-saving”.

The Safety Resource Card folds up to the size of a business card so that women using the card may do so discretely and without fear of its being discovered by an abusive partner.

The Safety Resource Cards are available to the community and those interested in obtaining the free card please call 778-558-7179 or email communityengagement@bwss.org

For almost 40 years, Battered Women’s Support Services has worked towards women’s liberation through education, advocacy, support services, and systemic and social change to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence.

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Media enquiries:
Angela Marie MacDougall, Battered Women’s Support Services
Executive Director
Cell:  604-808-0507
Email:  director@bwss.org

Cyber Security

Planning for Safety

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(Image via hackblossom.org)

The UN estimates that 95% of aggressive behaviour, harassment, and abusive language in online spaces are aimed at women and come from current or former male partners.  This behaviour is used to control, intimate and isolate women and girls. Planning for safety can be one way women can take back power in abusive relationships. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to be safe online.

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(Image via hackblossom.org)

Cell Phone Safety

A cell phone used for harassment is a common tool of power and control.  This might include

  • Constantly texting all day long
  • Expecting an immediate reply and becoming abusive if you are unable to reply
  • Calling you repeatedly from known or unknown numbers

There are cybersecurity strategies that can help you gain more safety.

Most strategies depend on having a smartphone; if you have a regular cell-phone, you will have fewer technical options available, although there will be fewer means of tech-based harassment.

  • Blocking a phone-number is one way to cut-off contact from an abusive partner/ex-partner. Unfortunately, for many women this is not always an available solution. For example you may need your partner’s number for communicating about your children –or they may change their number or use a different phone number that isn’t blocked.
  • Disabling notifications lets you communicate when you feel safe to do so, but also at the expense of instant communication with friends and family. You may need to disable and re-enable notifications throughout the day.
  • Some apps, like Messages in iOS (IPhones), can filter unknown phone-numbers into a separate list.
  • Disable the read-receipts (the messages that say when someone read your text) means your abusive male partner won’t know when you’re using your cell phone.
  • Turning off location-sharing will hide your physical whereabouts.
  • Deleting conversation history can be comforting if you find yourself repeatedly reading old abusive conversations (though you should preserve this history if you need evidence for legal reasons).
  • Use alternative texting apps –you can use one specific app if you need to communicate with your partner/ex-partner and that way you can disable notification specifically from that app.

Look into what your phone and your phones apps offer and customize them to what you need. No setting changes have to be permanent and you can always change them when you need to.

Changing Your Phone Number

Changing your number is choice based on the intensity of your partner’s harassment, the viability of changing your contact information amongst your social and business networks, and your financial resources.

  • Create a back-up of any important photos and conversations that you want to preserve, especially any evidence of abuse.
  • Make a note of any online accounts that are connected to your phone number, like social media or banking accounts—sometimes your login information is tied to a cell phone number, so you should update these accounts with your new number if you want to.
  • Find out if any of your accounts display your phone number. Profiles, like those on Facebook or LinkedIn, might reveal this data without your knowledge. Then update your settings so that your new phone number will not be visible to the public.
  • Once you’ve changed your phone number, make a point not to give that number to any website unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t hesitate to lie about your phone number, as well as other personal information online. Just because a website requires this data, it doesn’t mean you have to compromise your safety. Create a fake number, address, or even a fake name.

social media safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

Social Media

There is so much gender based violence that can be found on social media. And abusive male partner will be quick to exploit this this vulnerability, either directly harassing you through various online platforms, or enlisting hate communities to assist in the abuse and harassment. Making your profile private: choosing to be private or public makes you no more deserving of harassment.

Tips on what to do when receiving abuse or harassment on social media:

  • One option is to report the abuser through the platform itself.
  • Abusive messages that threaten violence are criminal. If you think these threats are an imminent danger, you should contact the BWSS Crisis line, friends or family that can provide safe shelter, or, if you feel safe doing so, the police.
  • Collect evidence of the threats –these can be helpful in demonstrating danger to the legal systems, and police.
  • While the abusive partner can delete proof of their harassment, you can take screenshots for your personal records, or report the messages to the social media platform so they have a record.

He might use social media by getting friends or family to contact you about your relationship, making you feel pressured or ganged up on. He might monitor your friend’s activity on social to gain information about your personal life if you appear on their account. He might post harassing and abusive messages or photos about you, to embarrass you in front of your community.

You can resist social network exploitation through mindfulness and self-care.

  • Check your friend or follower list of people who you don’t know, or aren’t very close with—if you ran into them on the street, would you want to talk to them? If not, delete them.
  • When your friends post something about you, in photos or otherwise, politely ask them to withhold that information out of respect for your privacy. It’s especially important to discourage “tagging” in photos or posts, which frequently reveal your physical location at a specific time.
  • Don’t hesitate to block or unfriend people who are contacting you in a way that causes stress, discomfort, or harm: you are not obliged to talk to anyone who makes you feel that way.
  • Comment sections are especially cruel, where many people are thoughtless and angry—it’s okay to ignore them.
  • If your partner is publicly attacking you, report them to the social media platform for harassment.
  • You can also take a social media hiatus to reduce stress.

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

Is your partner impersonating you online?

This is a tactic used to damage someone’s reputation, causing isolation from friends, coworkers, or family. Your partner may impersonate you by sharing sexual photos, sending embarrassing messages to your social network, or using your online accounts.

This is done through the creation of fake social media accounts, such as a Facebook profile or a Twitter account. If the platform has the option, report the account as an impersonation and/or as harassment. Having friends/family report the account may increase the possibility of a response from the platform.

Is your personal information being shared online?

Posting your information online is also a common tactic that is used. This includes sharing phone numbers, addresses, names of family members, embarrassing private information, intimate photographs or texts, and other pieces of personal data can be shared on social media, email, and websites.

Technology facilitated location stalking

It’s never been easier to track your daily movements. GPS technologies are built-into our phones, available for any app that wants to share your location. Photos are embedded with information identifying when and where the photo was taken. Social media posts from your friends reveal where you are and where you are going. Even the Compass Card used on Transit compromise women’s safety because it can be used to track the exact time and location a woman uses transit.

It’s frightening to know that your partner or ex-partner can track you and important to know that this is stalking. Stalking is illegal and if you are comfortable you can connect with our crisis line for more support or the police.

GPS Tracking in Cellphones

Your cellphone reveals your physical location at every given moment. GPS, which means “Global Positioning System”, determines where your phone is in real-time based on satellites. This isn’t internet based but rather there’s a chip in your phone that receives and processes the satellite signals.

Your location can be tracked through apps that use Location Services.  Disable Location Services for any app that may compromise your safety. An abusive male partner may secretly download apps on your phone to keep track on where you are, so if you see any unfamiliar apps, delete them right away.

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

 My partner is monitoring my computer or cell phone activity.

Is your partner monitoring you? Here are some red flags to notice.

  • He frequently asks to see your computer or cell phone, or takes it.
  • He demands passwords to your computer or cell phone.
  • He wants login information for your email, banking, shopping, or social media accounts.
  • He is known to be “good with computers” and handles your computer tasks.
  • He gives you devices that he’s set-up for you.
  • He spends a significant amount of time on his computer and is unusually secretive about it.
  • He makes vague references to activities or conversations they were not present for.
  • He gets unexpectedly angry towards a person you’ve recently communicated with.
  • He threatens to reveal embarrassing information about you.

Changing Passwords

If you think your partner is reading your texts, watching your emails, looking at your photos, or using your cell phone, you can change your passwords to lock them out. Changing your passwords depends on your safety levels. Don’t change your passwords if there’s a risk of him retaliating. You may not know whether he has your passwords—try changing one password and wait a few days to see if he reacts. If they don’t react, try changing another password and repeat the process.

Fingerprint passwords are being used more and more for phones and laptops. While this might seem like a safe way to protect your privacy, your partner could simply swipe your finger while you’re asleep or intoxicated, or physically force you to unlock a device.

If you’re separated from your partner, change all of your important passwords just to be safe. One option is to use the use a Password Manager. A password manager generates and stores passwords for you, so you don’t have to remember them. This makes it impossible for your partner to guess your password or hack into your account. You can also use the Two-Step Verification defense strategy. When you login to a website, you will need a number generated by your phone or received in a text. Even if your partner has your password, they would still need your cell phone to access your website.

Protect Your Computer Web Browsing

Web browsers store every website you visit in their “history”. Your partner can check this history to see which websites you’ve visited and when. Web browsers also store “cookies”, pieces of data used by websites to store login information, website settings, or advertising data. Cookies let you return to websites and still be logged in. Though it might be inconvenient, log out of your websites when you’re done using them.

More about Internet Safety here.

Create Back-up Accounts

With unwanted access to your accounts, he may try to destroy or sabotage them: deleting emails, erasing photos, or unfriending people on social media. Create backups of your important data when it’s not safe to remove your partners access/

  • Emails –create a forwarding address so every incoming email is sent to an additional email address that your partner doesn’t have access to.
  • Texts –enable text-forwarding, where your texts are saved on another device: possibly a friend or family member’s phone.
  • Create secret accounts –create an alternative account your partner doesn’t know about. When you register online, use a totally new password, email address, and login name and only use private browsing when on the secret account.

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

I’m Afraid of My Sexual Content Being Hacked.

Sending sexual content to another person means it lives on your recipient’s devices, apps, cloud, or websites. Even if you delete the content in one location, it could still survive elsewhere. To protect your sexual content, be aware of where the data lives, choose apps that offer control over your media, and secure your devices and accounts. It’s okay to skip the following strategies when it doesn’t feel safe for you.

Protecting your apps

  • “Short-lived” apps like Snapchat may seem private, but it’s very easy for your partner to take screenshots or install software to record snaps. Be aware of app permissions: if there’s an app that has unwanted access to your content, either delete the content, or disable permissions for the app.
  • Reduce risk by choosing apps that do not back-up to the cloud, do not share across devices, and require a password.
  • It’s likely that your text messages, photos, and videos are automatically backed-up in the cloud. Deleting them on your device doesn’t guarantee that they are deleted in the cloud. When creating sexual content, try to use apps that don’t back-up to the cloud, or have back-ups disabled. Securing your cloud with a strong password will reduce the risk of your cloud being hacked.
  • Two-Step Verification offers even more security.

My Partner is Sharing Images of me online without my consent.

There are “revenge porn” websites that explicitly encourage content that was shared without consent which is illegal.

If you find your sexual content being shared on a website, first collect evidence. Sharing pornography non-consensually violates the law in Canada, so evidence is crucial if you decide to pursue legal action. Then, contact the website about taking down the content.

Create a Safety Plan

 

Battered Women Who Have Been Arrested

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Back in 2008, Battered Women’s Support Services confronted the growing problem of police services misapplying “pro-arrest” policies and criminalizing battered women for self-defending in domestic violence situations. We came to this confrontation authentically when we began supporting a growing number of women who were arrested for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence against their male partner and these arrests occurred despite the fact that in all cases the women were in relationships where their male partners were abusing them. This was evidenced by previous police reports, hospital/doctor visits, child witnesses and neighbour or co-worker accounts.

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) continues doing this work as one of the only organizations in B.C. supporting women who have been arrested. In 2017, BWSS will provide training to service providers on this issue.

 

To help with planning for the training and future advocacy for battered women who have been arrested. we are asking you to participate in our short survey.

 

By completing the survey you can enter to win a $200 gift certificate to Battered Women’s Support Services social enterprise, My Sister’s Closet! Closing date to enter the draw is January 31, 2017.

Thank you!

Self-Care

Here are a few options for self-care and to deal with triggers:

  • Assess and make decisions about how much media you want to take in.
  • Set limits with people around you, friends, family, co-workers about talking about the trial.
  • Make decisions to stay from social media generally or specifically the comments section on news sites on social media sites.
  • Don’t assume everyone wants to discuss the trial. Give thought to what articles you share or if you share articles at all about the trial.
  • If you’re experiencing strong responses to media and/or social media reports you may be having a flashback or otherwise being triggered.
  • Remember, you can mute the #Ghomeshi tag if you need to. Take care of yourself.

derWhat is a flashback?

A flashback is when memories of a past trauma feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. That means it’s possible to feel like the experience of sexual violence is happening all over again. During a flashback it can be difficult to connect with reality. It may even feel like the perpetrator is physically present.

Flashbacks may seem random at first. They can be triggered by fairly ordinary experiences connected with the senses, like the smell of someone’s odor or a particular tone of voice. It’s a normal response to this kind of trauma, and there are steps you can take to help manage the stress of a flashback.

What helps during a flashback?

  • If you realize that you are in the middle of a flashback, consider the following tips:
  • Tell yourself that you are having a flashback. Remind yourself that the actual event is over and that you survived.
  • Take slow, deep breaths by placing your hand on your stomach and taking deep breaths. You should see your hand move out with the inhalations, and watch it fall in with the exhalations.
  • When we panic, our body begins to take short, shallow breaths, and the decrease in oxygen can make you feel more panicked. Deep breathing is important because it increases the oxygen in your system and helps you move out of anxious state faster.

Return to the present by using the five senses.

  • Sight: Look around you. Make a list of the items in the room; count the colors or pieces of furniture around you. What do you see?
  • Smell: Breathe in a comforting scent, or focus on the smells around you. What do you smell?
  • Hearing: Listen to the noises around you, or turn on music. What do you hear?
  • Taste: Eat or drink something you enjoy. Focus on the flavor. What do you taste?
  • Touch: Hold something cold, like a piece of ice, or hot, like a mug of tea. What does it feel like?
  • Recognize what would make you feel safer.
  • Wrap yourself in a blanket, or go into a room by yourself and close the door. Do whatever it takes for you to feel secure.

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How to prevent flashbacks?

You may be able to take steps to prevent future flashbacks by identifying warning signs and triggers

Be aware of the warning signs.

Flashbacks sometimes feel as though they come out of nowhere, but there are often early physical or emotional warning signs. These signs could include a change in mood, feeling pressure in your chest, or suddenly sweating. Becoming aware of the early signs of flashbacks may help you manage or prevent them.

Identify what experiences trigger your flashbacks.

Flashbacks can be triggered by a sensory feeling, an emotional memory, a reminder of the event, or even an unrelated stressful experience. Identify the experiences that trigger your flashbacks. If possible, make a plan on how to avoid these triggers or how to cope if you encounter the trigger.

Where to get help?

There is a relief that comes with the end of a flashback, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-time occurrence. Flashbacks can worsen over time if you don’t address them.

Here is a list of resources where help is available:

In British Columbia

https://www.bwss.org/resources/resources-for-women-in-bc/

In Canada

https://www.bwss.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/TransitionHousesinCanada11.pdf

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Supporting Women’s Economic Freedom

Through years of offering services to women and working with them to help them overcome the impact of violence in their lives, BWSS has learned the importance of the role economic and financial freedom plays in the lives of women leaving abusive relationships. Having the needed economic skills and support increases the likelihood that women are better able to sustain themselves and their families as they look to the future.

By working with women daily we have come to understand the impact economic abuse has on a woman, as she strives to provide for herself and her children. Once women leave an abusive partner, they face multiple economic barriers to maintain their independence and meet the basic needs of their children and themselves. Economic security exists on a continuum and is fluid. Based on individual circumstances, women can move toward greater economic and personal autonomy over time. As women gain self confidence in their abilities and strengths, identify a future career path and move towards attaining independence financially, women attain greater economic security

 

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Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment [AWARE] works with women to identify their skills, help build self- esteem and confidence, and help attain their identified career goals. This is accomplished through one to one supports and employment readiness workshops provided by our two members, AWARE team. To better meet the needs of women accessing our employment program, AWARE workshops will now move to two days a week [Tuesdays and Thursdays]. Having multiple workshops will help women arrange their schedules so that they can attend at least one workshop if not both; mothers with young children requiring care can arrange for short term care as the workshops will be 2 hours each day rather than navigating a longer day.

In addition to increasing the number of workshops offered, AWARE will be offering some targeted clinics on resumes, cover letters, interview practice, and career exploration. The first of these will be held on November 14th between 10:00am and 6:00pm. Women will be able to have an AWARE staff help them with their resume, and explore careers based on interests and past work experience.

To register for the clinic, call Michele at 778-628-1867 or email her at michele@bwss.org

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CORE Training Update

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) Strategic Interventions CORE Training is officially sold out.

Although training is sold out, those who are interested can still register for the wait list and will be informed if a spot becomes available. 

Register For The Wait-List

CORE Training is an interactive, five day professional development opportunity for front-line workers, social service providers, community organizers and managers.  CORE training is inspiring, highly informing, builds on existing skills and teaches new tools and approaches based on BWSS 36 years of front-line work.

Workshop topics include:

  • Historical, Legal and Social Context of Gender Violence
  • Violence in Intimate Relationships
  • Sexual Violence
  • The Role of Men
  • Gender Violence, Substance Use and Mental Health
  • Violence Against Women and the Law
  • Advocating for Effective Systemic Response
  • Moving Ahead

By the end of this highly experiential training, workshop participants will:

  • Gain skills in crisis intervention, risk assessment, safety planning, advocacy, and referrals,
  • Increase their understanding of best practices in both the clinical and community aspects of ending violence work,
  • Develop practical strategies and legal resources to better assist women in accessing justice,
  • Understand the importance of working with women who have experienced violence from an anti-oppression approach,
  • Develop an understanding and skills related to the importance of witnessing in gender violence intervention,
  • Understand the role of men in violence prevention. Participants will gain practical tools and strategies for breaking the silence and a promoting healthy masculine role.

You can acquire different tools and strategies that empower women, their families, and communities.

  Wait-List Registration 

Learn more about CORE Training here.

 

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