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May 8, 2020 at 2:51 pm #2138Massimiliano FiloniGuest
At the time of COVID-19, how do the practices to help women who suffer violence change?
How does the prevention and fight against violence on women change?
We would like to open an online exchange of practices put in place and the methodology applied in the relationship of help during the COVID-19 epidemic in Europe.
How anti-violence centre and operators in the sector are working?
REFLECTIONS BY THE GROUP OF MULTIPLIERS of the Vivien Project, Parma, Italy.
Violence against women is increasing, having to remain closed at home only increases the problems and we have no similar experiences in the past to draw on, so we have to find solutions by experimenting and modifying them if necessary. The following are the first reactions implemented by ACAV and subject to changes based on the evolution of the emergency situation
Strategies implemented at a general level
1) Maintaining the network and responding coherently to the situation of risk.
2) Maintaining the principle of self-determination of women even in this emergency phase.
3) ACAV has launched an information campaign on social networks (to be shared on personal or institutional social networks) to clarify what to do in the new emergency situation: many women at the beginning did not know how to contact the Antiviolence Center so we indicated the ways to do it, including Facebook, the response times and times when you can have an urgent contact.. We tried to give suggestions on safer ways to live forced cohabitation: for example trying to stay in separate rooms most of the time, calling the help line while he goes shopping or he is away from home, avoiding secretly calling with him nearby because being discovered could be risky for the own safety, etc. However, if the tension in the home is growing and the woman fears for herself and her children, the indication is to make contact with the police on the first occasion when the woman manages to be alone, to cost of running away on the street asking for help. The perception of risk should not be underestimated.
We suggest women to avoid chats on Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram because they are not secure, they leave traces and have remote access that can be used perhaps by the abuser.
We have also tried to make clear and concise communication, so that they can capture an image with useful indications, even in the short times they sometimes have at home.
4) Support to families as a Social Service, to reduce tensions and causes of stress, helping both materially (support for children’s education and homework, shopping vouchers and other support, giving safety devices, etc.) and organizationally ( use of cultural mediators, educators in remote educational support, etc.) both by monitoring situations with more frequency and continuity and by giving precise indications that communicate safety.
Regarding the structure of the talks with women who suffer violence / survivors of violence, ACAV made a reflection starting from the observation that in this moment of emergency COVID-19 we all live in constant alarm, the restrictions generate impotence and vulnerability, but also instinct to flee, loss of control, up to extreme behaviors like caged animals. Therefore distinguishing the different and individual responses implemented is important to be able to face the helping relationship.
There are 3 brain-like responses to stress:
2) mobilization (attack and escape)
3) social engagement.
The first is the oldest answer, which occurs when the person sees an extreme danger, then we get stuck, either feeling like a bomb ready to explode or with the emptying of energy and the blocking of the action.
The second is the most common reaction: we take action in the face of a collective danger, therefore with mobile responses such as attack and escape; the attack can result in increased need for control, irritability, excessive anger; escaping can result in escaping from home or increased need to move.
Finally the social engagement; it is the most advanced answer: it consists in creating a state of security and connection with others and with the context, which is missing today because communication with others is lacking and this gives us a sense of dispersion. This is why maintaining the relationship by seeing yourself on video is also important.
Our nervous system is in a state of constant alarm and defends itself as it can, so we asked ourselves how we can continue a helping relationship that is characterized by face-to-face and empathy, by non-verbal communication, when these aspects are not there.
Based on these analyzes here is the practice during helping women:
1) Don’t be the first to be agitated and stress: we have screened how we work under stress individually.
2) Reduction and change of the goals of the helping relationship: our main goal is now to preserve the woman-operator relationship, before returning to the face-to-face protocol. We want to generate stabilization to prevent the deterioration of the helping relationship and prevent the woman’s emotional states which can also lead to suicidal or self-injurious thoughts.
3) Structuring with each woman specific pathways to support crises, but also monitoring safety with continuous risk assessment. We prepare a precise plan with the women, with frequency of contact, times … with some we make phone calls of 40-60 ‘, with others we make short checks or reduced interviews, according to needs and possibilities.
4) Understanding and helping the woman to understand how we are working, therefore it is important to communicate the expectations and internal drives and energies, to find more advanced stress management strategies.
5) Explicit the possibility of misunderstandings: misunderstandings are more common via telephone and internet, so we discuss this possibility with the woman in the early stages, to help her understand each other better, even by asking repeated questions for clarification.
6) Active listening has tripled, so be careful, to paraphrase what the other says and when the question is confused, emotions in great movement, we try to restore greater tranquility.
7) Greater attention in the talks when we use technology (cellular, video-conferences …) because a distraction can break a balance, if we don’t see the face of the other we don’t have a clear feedback on how it reacts; the challenge is to be able to build trust without having the person’s eyes. Let’s be careful to show the face well, a certain closeness, show the eyes and use the non-verbal to make us feel close.
8) Create security in calls: using code words to signal the presence of man; asking the woman to register us on the phone with an invented name and not as an Anti-violence Center.
9) Create spaces of tranquility for women: we suggest to keep a list of self-soothing and comforting practices, because it is important to find calm now, in own home. Finding a room where the woman feels comfortable, a safe place to experience feelings of tranquility, we suggest yoga, mindfulness, etc. sites. where to practice when she feels that emotions are over her.
10) We must use the voice well: when the woman is overloaded with emotions and confused, we take the situation in hand and make sure that they follow some precautions to stabilize themselves, shifting attention to what they see, what they feel …
11) We continue to work on their inner resources, discovering that they are capable, for example “he goes out but I am close to the children and help them with their homework.”
12) Do not take anything for granted, for example by ensuring that the network is there and the policy, they are ready as always, they are not blocked by the virus.
Multipliers meeting, Italy, 28 April 2020.