Abuse in Homelessness: Victims of Domestic Violence

Written by: Lauren Anderson

Edited by: Tvisha Shah & Jacqueline Cheung


Dear CCP readers,


During the month of October, people worldwide honor and recognize domestic violence awareness month. Domestic violence awareness month (DVAM) was introduced in 1981, by the National Coalition Against Domestic violence. DVAM was created to help raise awareness of issues relating to domestic violence and provide visibility to resources for victims in need. Abuse is common in the homeless population, and sometimes victims and their children become homeless after fleeing an abusive household. Victims of domestic abuse may find themselves left with a difficult choice between remaining with an abuser for financial stability or becoming homeless or impoverished for safety.



The Canadian Courage Project (CCP) aims to raise awareness on topics relating to the issues that people facing homelessness endure and aims to provide resources to combat such issues. Domestic violence is pervasive in Canada- affecting people who do not experience homelessness as well. Although, as one of the root causes to homelessness, it is important to understand and recognize abuse cycles. Our mission includes providing education and support for youth facing homelessness and our surrounding communities. Today’s post will discuss how victims of domestic violence and their children often find themselves in a state of financial insecurity leading to homelessness, and sources of help.


If you would like to learn more information regarding the current state of homelessness in Canada and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), welcome! If you are returning for more information about the particular challenges faced by youth experiencing homelessness and those with animal companions, welcome back! If you are new to our blog, welcome to the community and thank you for your interest in learning more about issues regarding the homelessness crisis in Canada and beyond - you are one step closer to becoming a changemaker in your community, and you are in great company.


What is domestic violence and is it prevalent in Canada?


Domestic violence (DV) can be any of the following: physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse, as well as by other family members or by one’s partner’s family members. There is a great stigma that surrounds the concept of domestic violence, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. The stigma that domestic violence is only physical is a false representation that harms victims and provides miseducation. This could lead to victim blaming and self-doubt. Yearly, around 10 million people experience domestic violence, which equates to around 20 victims per minute. Discussing the topic of domestic violence is not easy, but with these numbers in mind, it is clear that this issue should be acknowledged with more gravity and education should be increased.


Although Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, it is not exempt from problems including domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. These problems still affect around 1 in 25 women in Canada. The Canadian Women’s Foundation provides a great amount of statistical evidence that portrays the magnitude of domestic violence in Canada, including the fact that almost every six days, a woman is killed by their intimate partner. It is important to note the prevalence of DV in Canada, to acknowledge that more actions need to be done for prevention and further support for victims.


The threat of homelessness experienced by victims of domestic violence


Each night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it is not safe for them to sleep in their home. The aftereffects of intimate partner violence are all-encompassing: physical, mental, and emotional. The act of leaving an abusive situation takes a great deal of bravery and can be an incredibly emotional experience. Parents leaving an abusive home are left to find resources that will keep them and their children safe. Victims are left to provide for their children independently, leading to a larger population of people experiencing homelessness.


Programs dedicated towards supporting unsheltered women and children who have experienced domestic violence could be strengthened in Canada. The supportive housing system for domestic violence survivors is overcrowded and underfunded, leading to fears of financial insecurity and homelessness for those trying to escape a violent home. Victims are forced to make a decision between staying in an abusive relationship and potential homelessness. For those who choose the latter, they must navigate safely on the streets if shelters are closed for availability, which, unfortunately, is the common case. The courage to leave an abuser can unfortunately be stifled due to a lack of financial security and shelter.


Victims who leave with children or who may be pregnant may also choose to not leave out of consideration of their child’s future livelihood as well. The choice lies between continuing to raise a child in an abusive household or raising a child in a homeless shelter, and sometimes unsheltered.


Research has proven that children experiencing trauma during their youth are more likely to end up homeless. This difficult decision should not be worsened by the idea that a child who has witnessed domestic violence may become homeless and experience more trauma in their life. Avoiding these types of decisions would be ideal. The reality is that domestic violence is far from being eliminated and so is homelessness, but the severity of this safety decision could be alleviated. Prevention and education are key. Means of prevention include preventing violence to begin with, homelessness thereafter, and preventing the cycle from occurring again. Education is crucial for families who experience violence within their home and for other members of society who have not experienced domestic violence. Education should be provided to greater society on the various types of domestic violence and how they might present themselves, the prevalence of DV in society, how to safely escape an abusive home, and how to educate children on what a healthy relationship should look like. We hope that as we work towards reaching these goals of prevention and education, DV victims and survivors can find peace and safety from their abusers with the current resources available.


Where can victims and survivors of domestic violence find help?


Intimate partner violence against women and children is a global public health concern and is a problem that exists in every country around the globe. The United Nations (UN) has included several sustainable development goals (SDG) for 2030, that are dedicated towards eliminating violence and harm that affect children, including, domestic violence, child marriage, female mutilation, trafficking, and sexual violence. The UN Secretary General conducted a study on violence against children and found that around 275 million children are exposed to violence in their homes globally. The UN has recognized the impact that domestic violence has on women and children, and countries should follow suit.


Victims and survivors of domestic violence can find help through various paths, such as, government programs, non-profit shelters, crisis lines, health centers, and more. For victims who are facing a situation of homelessness, emergency shelters and shelters created specifically for victims of domestic violence are places that can provide immediate safety.


Our team at the CCP partners with several shelters, including Anova, an organization that provides a safe place, shelter, support, counseling, and resources for women and their children who have endured abuse. We are proud to partner with amazing organizations that provide healing to individuals and families who have faced oppression. We hope to continuously improve the livelihood and well-being of those facing homelessness. If you would like to join the conversation and help us complete this mission, contact us here.


Thank you for reading our blog! Feel free to leave a comment with your feedback and/or insights to help us enrich the quality of future posts and cater to the interests of our community of changemakers.


- The CCP Team



Sources

Defence, N. (2022, July 21). Government of Canada. Domestic violence - Canada.ca. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/covid-19/domestic-violence.html


Domestic violence in Canada causing rise in family homelessness. Invisible People. (2022, October 9). Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://invisiblepeople.tv/domestic-violence-in-canada-causing-rise-in-family-homelessness/


Domestic violence. Domestic Violence | The Homeless Hub. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/legal-justice-issues/domestic-violence


Government of Canada, D. of J. (2022, March 7). Get help with family violence. Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Electronic Communications. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/help-aide.html


One in four women experience domestic violence before age 50. Newsroom. (2022, March 29). Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/one-four-women-experience-domestic-violence-age-50-338615#:~:text=Canada%20among%20countries%20with%20lowest,%E2%80%9D%20notes%20Professor%20Maheu%2DGiroux


United Nations. (n.d.). Violence against children | department of economic and social affairs. United Nations. Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://sdgs.un.org/topics/violence-against-children#:~:text=The%20inclusion%20of%20a%20specific,%2C%20neglect%2C%20abuse%20and%20exploitation


UNVAC World Report on Violence Against Children - United Nations. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2022, from https://violenceagainstchildren.un.org/sites/violenceagainstchildren.un.org/files/document_files/world_report_on_violence_against_children.pdf


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