COVID-19, Substance Use, and Intimate Partner Violence

Aspects of social isolation, lockdowns and other containment measures have exacerbated both intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance use in the context of COVID-19. In fact, UN Women has named violence against women a “shadow pandemic” and called for immediate action to mitigate increases in both domestic violence and sexual assault. Even before COVID-19, intimate partner violence (IPV) affected 1 in 3 women globally. During COVID-19 IPV services are experiencing increased pressure.

Substance use patterns have changed as well. Statistics Canada has reported an increase in alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use during COVID-19 and Angus Reid reported worsening mental health among 50% of Canadians. Yet, it is still unclear how quarantine measures affect both IPV and substance use patterns among women, what additional or different needs women experiencing IPV and substance use might have during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how first responders and frontline workers can address women’s needs during and after the pandemic.

We are currently undertaking a Rapid Review that examines the role of COVID-19 and substance use in intimate partner violence among women. We are rapidly synthesizing research evidence with the goal of using this knowledge to support services providers in how they can better respond to issues of COVID-19 and resulting containment measures, IPV and substance use. Working with our service partners – Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Women’s Shelters Canada, and the Justice Institute of BC, we are co-developing materials and resources for first responders, IPV and substance use workers.

This project is a contribution to CIHR’s COVID-19 and Mental Health Initiative that supports the urgent need for mental health knowledge, evidence, and responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings are posted and updated until November 22, 2020 here. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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This project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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