By Farah Mustafa
Women and communities of gender diverse people have complicated relationships with social media. We always have. Social media is often a tool enabling violence online – used by perpetrators to control victims directly on social media or by controlling how and when social media and technology is accessed.
But sometimes social media can be empowering – bringing likeminded and similarly-experienced communities together. Communities can share resources, promote and celebrate each other’s successes, and bring to light the issues that matter most. During the time of COVID-19, one of many issues that is top of mind for me is the increase of gender based violence, as women and gender diverse people are trapped with abusers in violent spaces; as individuals cannot seek out the resources in person that they typically would; as communities cannot physically be in each other’s comfort. But, there is hope.
As the world has grown exponentially more reliant on technology and digital spaces through the last few months of this pandemic, survivors have found ways to support each other through COVID-19. While technology is not accessible to all, and that is a conversation that requires great exploration and understanding, I am grateful for the way communities of survivors have resiliently leveraged technology to be in our favour during COVID-19.
This includes the increase of accessible physical wellbeing resources that give folks free tools to take care of their physical health within their own comfort, away from spaces that may be uncomfortable or triggering. Examples include Zoom exercise classes, meditation and YouTube channels. Secondly, countless women’s organizations have pivoted their programming to be entirely online, providing counselling and workshops virtually. Survivors are also creating their own community care circles – kind of like pseudo group therapy that replaces the in person meet-ups a lot of us had – for their own networks; some might be created on Facebook and be more informal, while others feature guest speakers in official Zoom events. A popular hand signal created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation (https://bit.ly/2YWFGnN) has allowed people facing violence to let others know to check up on them. These are just some of the examples that I’ve seen.
As the months go by, one thing has been clear for me, and that is that survivors of violence have always been resilient and will continue to be that way – pandemic, or no pandemic.