In the aftermath of the pandemic, social service providers and organizations dedicated to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) must prioritize the recovery and empowerment of marginalized communities. This playbook outlines strategic initiatives and best practices to support #Shecovery efforts, focusing on fostering inclusivity and addressing poverty issues among diverse populations.


The #SHEcovery project was a community-based research (CBR) project that was not affiliated with any research institution. Results of the research were aimed to help inform the design/delivery of services, the creation of training and public education materials, and future development of projects and adjustments to existing programs and services at the Clinic. A total of 40 service providers and 10 survivors were interviewed, consulted, and/or surveyed. The Shecovery project had an academic advisor associated with the project who provided advice and feedback on our research strategy and materials and an evaluator who worked closely with the project team to ensure that the Clinic was implementing best practices in CBR ethics within the Clinic’s capacity. Participants provided informed consent to participate in the project, which was an ongoing and transparent process throughout the course of the project. We were committed to ensuring that the identities of participants are never revealed unless contributors give their permission. The deliverable of this project was a 15-20 page written report that aimed to highlight emerging needs related to COVID-19 and good policies/practices for GBV prevention and effective case management supports.

Economic Impact of COVID-19

During the pandemic, women and those in the caring industry grappled with the brunt of the care work both at home and on the frontlines in the battle against the disease. Many women had to balance working at home while taking care of children and overseeing school activities due to the lockdowns and shuttering of childcare support services. Women were also more often working in industries that had layoffs, closures, and earning losses such as hospitality and food services, retail, education, healthcare and social assistance. These jobs also came with an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The pandemic also had a disproportionate effect on marginalized populations, who were more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, being socially isolated, and were at higher risk of death. Pre-existing inequalities were exacerbated during the pandemic, and financial difficulties were especially common for newcomers, LGBTQ2S, and racialized women, putting them at greater risk of being victims of gender-based violence and putting them at greater risk of being financially dependent on an abusive partner. The pandemic also increased levels of racism and workplace harassment towards healthcare workers identifying as Asian.

Best Practices:

  1. Recognition of women’s care work is a fundamental part of any commitment to ending gender-based violence and discrimination in Canada.
  2. Develop tailored economic recovery programs that prioritize marginalized communities, offering financial literacy training, microloans, and entrepreneurship support.
  3. Collaborate with community partners to create job placement initiatives and skill-building workshops specifically designed for survivors of GBV and individuals facing economic hardship.

Gender-Based Violence During the Pandemic

The public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a shadow pandemic of gender-based violence, leading to violence against women rising throughout much of 2020 and 2021. Social distancing and lockdowns contributed to greater financial difficulties, food insecurity, loneliness, and overall increased stressors within families. At the same time, victims of intimate partner violence were unable to leave their homes and seek out social support during this time of stress. Many women were also more financially independent of their partners and, therefore, faced greater barriers to leaving their abusive partners.

Best Practices:

  1. Develop and implement a crisis response plan that specifically addresses the escalation of GBV during pandemics or other emergency situations. These plans should be regularly updated based on real-time data and lessons learned from previous crises.
  2. Promote the development of mentorship programs and peer support networks to enhance ongoing resilience and recovery and prevent social isolation

3. Continue to engage in advocacy efforts to strengthen legal frameworks and policies related to GBV prevention, protection, and survivor support.

4. Advocate for long-term support services for survivors beyond immediate crisis intervention.

5. Form collaborative partnerships between GBV service organizations so that survivors have cohesive support.

Impact on Marginalized Communities

Marginalized communities were hit harder by the pandemic, increasing existing structural inequalities that existed prior to the pandemic. Newcomer, Indigenous, racialized, LGBTQ2S and disabled women were more at risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Indigenous women are still three times more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence, with 1 in 5 Indigenous women facing intimate partner violence. Despite this, there is a lack of access to culturally sensitive services made by and for Indigenous women. Newcomer women are more likely to face isolation, financial difficulties, and discrimination and are at greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Similarly, racialized women report higher levels of gender discrimination and are more likely to be in low-income situations, putting them at risk of being unable to leave an abusive partner due to lack of savings. LGBTQ2S individuals are also at greater risk of experiencing social isolation and bullying, financial difficulties, and intimate partner violence.

Best Practices

  1. Enhance support services for survivors of GBV by offering trauma-informed care, counseling, and legal assistance tailored to the needs of diverse populations.
  2. Implement outreach programs to ensure marginalized communities are aware of available resources and feel empowered to seek support without fear of discrimination or stigma.
  3. Advocate for policies that prioritize healthcare equity and ensure LGBTQ+-inclusive and culturally competent care for all individuals.
  4. Incorporate intersectional approaches into GBV prevention and intervention strategies, recognizing the complex and interconnected forms of discrimination faced by marginalized communities.
  5. Advocate for systemic changes to address poverty, discrimination, and structural inequalities that perpetuate GBV and hinder access to support services.
  6. Create platforms for marginalized voices to be heard and actively participate in decision-making processes related to social services, GBV prevention, and policy development.
  7. Support community-led initiatives and grassroots organizations that empower marginalized communities to advocate for their rights and drive systemic change.

Access to Services

Despite increases in intimate partner violence throughout the pandemic, the stay-at-home orders limited survivors’ access to clinics, shelters, and other organizations. Some organizations were not deemed essential or were limited in what services they could provide, which significantly constrained the services survivors could access. Barriers to access included a lack of privacy at home when using online services, a lack of access to online services, a lack of availability or space in shelters, fears about contracting COVID-19, and a preoccupation with other stressors. Access to care was especially challenging for victims of intimate partner violence who lived in rural and remote areas and in Indigenous communities.

Best Practices:

  1. Expand access to services in rural and remote areas and to services made by and for Indigenous peoples.
  2. Engage in advocacy efforts to strengthen legal frameworks and policies related to GBV prevention, protection, and survivor support and ensure funding is available even in emergency situations.
  3. Ensure funding is reflective of the increased demand for services for gender based violence.

Lack of Funding for Service Providers

Many organizations faced funding challenges throughout the pandemic, and not every service that was available prior to the pandemic recovered. There was also a lack of funding for advocacy work and research on new forms of technology-facilitated GBV that became more common throughout the pandemic. Many women’s shelters faced rising costs, an increased demand for their services, and a shortage of staff.

Best Practices:

  1. Engage in advocacy efforts to strengthen legal frameworks and policies related to funding GBV prevention, protection, and survivor support.
  2. Ensure that a crisis response plan is developed that accounts for funding needs in times of an emergency situation.

The Digital Divide

As many services moved online, those that did not have access to the internet or other technology were left unable to access much needed support services. Some victims of intimate partner violence lacked access to technology as a form of coercive control at the hands of their abusers, while others felt unsafe or a lack of privacy in accessing care in their own homes that they shared with their abusers. For those that could access online services, many felt more comfortable talking over the phone or online, and access to technology facilitated connection and combatted feelings of loneliness over the pandemic. Technology has also increased the flexibility of providing counselling and other services, but many also liked to have the option of accessing services in person in a hybrid format. Technology has also been a way to facilitate gender-based violence. Women have been subject to stalking, harassment, image based sexual abuse, and other forms of gender-based violence through the use of technology.

Best Practices:

  1. Enhance accessibility to online services, especially in rural and remote areas and in Indigenous communities.
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of online counselling to determine the appropriate balance between virtual and in-person interactions.
  3. Ensure survivors also have access to in-person services, as online services are not an option for some.
  4. Develop and promote digital safety measures to protect victims of GBV from online harassment, stalking, and technology-facilitated violence and educate service providers on these new forms of gender-based violence.


By centering the needs and experiences of marginalized communities in #Shecovery efforts, social service providers and GBV support organizations can contribute to building a more equitable and inclusive post-pandemic society. This playbook serves as a guide to empower survivors, address poverty issues, and promote intersectional equity in the wake of the pandemic.

The SHECovery Project

The Barbra Schlifer Clinic’s #SHEcovery project was a 34-month initiative advancing a more inclusive feminist recovery through systemic change. The project addressed barriers to gender equality experienced by survivors from underrepresented communities who risk being left behind in the #SHEcovery.

We thank and acknowledge our Community Partners, Survivors, People with lived experiences, Collaborators, and Clinic staff for their contributions to this project.

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