Eduvation Blog

#16Days and the Shadow Pandemic

Good morning, and “happy” Black Friday, I guess?

(Personally, I’m going to recognize “Buy Nothing Day” today, which seems more appropriate, given our current crises in supply chains, climate change, and even inflation…)

But today I want to focus on yesterday (weird for a futurist, I know).

Yesterday was of course US Thanksgiving, celebrated in the streets with the Macy’s parade in NYC, and in crowded airports with about 50M Americans travelling home for turkey dinner. (Counter-programming included Turkey-Free Thanksgiving, and the more sober Native American National Day of Mourning, which retells “a different side” of the pilgrims’ feast in New England.)

More significantly for CdnPSE, and higher ed outside the US, yesterday marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – or #16Days, for short. (I had every intention of publishing this yesterday, but my optometrist got aggressive with pupil dilation and I had to sleep on it.)

With campus activism against sexual violence on the rise, gender-based abuse rising during the pandemic, and far too many examples of persistent gender inequity in the academy, the theme is too important to let slide – even if it’s a bit serious for a Friday issue…

(Note: This issue discusses research and challenges facing CdnPSE related to gender-based violence. Though I’ve included nothing explicit, readers may find some themes disturbing.)


Shadow Pandemic

Violence against women and children (VAWC) has been acknowledged as a medical, social, and economic scourge for decades, but the past 19 months of COVID19 have only exacerbated the issue…


Global Efforts

UN Women reports that “nearly 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime,” and moreover that numbers rise in times of crisis, from war zones and climate disasters to – yes, sadly – pandemics. VAWC is far more widespread than many know, due to “impunity, silence, stigma and shame.” It includes intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, and child marriage. (If you want to put a dollar figure on it, the UN calculates the global cost of VAW at $1.5 trillion US.) Nonetheless, “gender-based violence is not inevitable” continues the UN, and solutions start with believing survivors, tackling root causes, educating men and boys about positive masculinity, and empowering women and girls – through the education, justice, health and social sectors. (The UN General Assembly issued a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993, and more than 5M people signed a petition to make ending VAW a top priority worldwide.) Nov 25 is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  UN IDEVAW


Shadow Pandemic

As the COVID19 pandemic pushed society into lockdowns, survivors of domestic abuse lost ready access to healthcare, childcare, shelters, police and justice services, and ~5M more women were affected by violence every month the lockdowns continued. The combination of movement restrictions, cramped living conditions, isolation with abusive partners and deserted public spaces allowed VAWC to spread, even as it suppressed the spread of coronavirus. Violence against female healthcare workers and frontline staff increased. And sadly, because of COVID19, ~11M girls may not return to school and ~47M more women and girls will likely be pushed into poverty. The social implosion in Afghanistan, earthquake in Haiti, and other natural and manmade disasters have made things even worse, in what the UN calls a “Shadow Pandemic.”  UN Women

“Even before the pandemic, violence against women was one of the most widespread violations of human rights. Since lockdown restrictions, domestic violence has multiplied, spreading across the world in a shadow pandemic.”Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women



Thousands of CdnPSE researchers are investigating VAWC in a whole range of fields, but here are a few examples prominent this week…

uCalgary is funding the development of interdisciplinary virtual gamified simulations for students in Nursing, Law, and Social Work, to provide experience interacting with victims, perpetrators and children in domestic assault scenarios. “With the help of actors, students will work through various decision points in a domestic violence situation. Like a ‘choose your own adventure’ game, students will be taken down different paths based on the decisions they make.” The game will also help students better understand the interaction and collaboration between their respective professions in a safe, trauma-informed way.  Education News Canada

Dalhousie U medicine prof Alexa Yakubovich is lead author of a study published yesterday in The Lancet Public Health, which finds a “massive and growing need for safe and supportive housing for women escaping intimate partner violence that is largely or entirely unmet in most countries, including Canada.” Mental health outcomes, not surprisingly, improve significantly when there are viable housing solutions available beyond the short-term. There are national housing policies to address GBV in the US, UK and Australia, but a “lack of focus” in Canada. Yakubovich was particularly startled to find that, despite 24,000 records worldwide, her team found just 34 studies – “nothing even close to the scale of the problem.” Dal News

uGuelph gender-based violence expert Myrna Dawson (who is director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, and the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability) reports an alarming increase in the rates of femicide – in Canada and worldwide – over the past 3 years. In Canada, 60 women and girls were killed in the first half of 2019, compared to 78 in the first half of 2020, and 92 in the first half of 2021. The pandemic has caused a more than 50% increase in femicide in this country, exacerbating the violence some women and children already faced and cutting them off from options. “While the pandemic has changed the dynamics of violence in some ways, the experiences, consequences and solutions have not changed significantly… These impacts don’t stop as soon as a disaster is under control. They’re felt for decades.”  Global  |  Globe & Mail  |  uGuelph News  |  The Conversation

“While the pandemic has changed the dynamics of violence in some ways, the experiences, consequences and solutions have not changed significantly… These impacts don’t stop as soon as a disaster is under control. They’re felt for decades.”Myrna Dawson, Director, Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, uGuelph


McGill U prof of Education and Law Shaheen Shariff researches cyberbullying and sexual violence, and human rights and civil law as it impacts educational institutions. “Patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny continue to be deeply embedded in society. VAWG is increasingly enabled through social media platforms such as online sexual harassment; demeaning non-consensual distribution of intimate images that violate women and girls’ privacy and dignity; sex trafficking and normalized violence in pornography that young people can now freely access… We have a lot of work to do globally and collectively, and I am grateful that the IDEVAW will raise increased awareness and hopefully resources, to support women whose lives are devastated because of senseless violence.”  McGill

Western U’s Alumni Association is promoting the inaugural lecture from the founder of Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children, Peter Jaffe. “Protecting Children from Domestic Violence: It Takes the Whole Community” will be delivered Dec 6.  CRHESI



Protests & Pressure

Admittedly, academe is not only researching solutions to VAWG, but struggling with some persistent gender-based violence, sexual assault and harassment itself. Here are just a few CdnPSE examples from recent weeks…   


Student Pressure at uAlberta

Last week, 22 student groups wrote an open letter demanding that uAlberta do much more to prevent and address sexual violence, and proposing 10 specific approaches, from mandatory courses about consent and sexual violence (for all students, staff and faculty) to updating policies and making it easier for victims to disclose abuse. Based on StatsCan data, a student body the size of UofA would see 3,100 sexual assaults each year – but “many survivors encounter unclear complaint pathways, unjust reporting or investigation mechanisms, insufficiently trained staff and instructors, lack of clarity on their rights, failure to meet standards of procedural fairness, or harmful stereotypes. Others report being simply ignored or even silenced.” There is particular concern about sexual violence in fraternities and residence halls, and about making bilingual resources available across all UofA campuses. The letter concludes that even “deep concern, when accompanied by continued inaction, is hypocrisy.” Provost Steven Dew responded that, “while the university has made progress in recent years in achieving our goals in this area, there is more we can do and we can do better.” uAlberta is recruiting for a sexual violence response coordinator.  CBC  |  Edmonton Journal  |  Joint Letter  |  The Quad

“Deep concern, when accompanied by continued inaction, is hypocrisy. It is past time that we as a community fight rape culture and provide some measure of justice.” Joint Letter from 22 uAlberta student organizations


Broken Silence at Bishop’s

Earlier this month, a disturbing message was posted on a bridge between student residences and the campus of Bishop’s U: “He raped me, I reported, He’s still in my class. BU take action!” The message on “the bridge of broken silence” was followed by several others from victims of sexual violence who were frustrated by purported inaction by the administration, or who never reported the incidents at all. Instagram pages are compiling even more anonymous accounts of sexual assault. Petitions and protests by students, parents and alumni are urging a new reporting process and expulsions for perpetrators, and reflect concerns the ranking of BU as a top “party school” is putting some in danger. (The administration says “we believe our students are neither more nor less ostentatiously festive than their counterparts across town, or in many other universities across the country.”) BU has hired an external investigator, held a town hall meeting, and is reviewing its processes and supports – including more on-campus events, “safe spaces for sobering up,” and the potential return of a walk-safe program.  Global  |  CTV  |  Sherbrooke Record


Syllabi Changes at Brandon U

“In view of the ongoing mishandling of sexualized violence cases on campus,” Music and Science profs at Brandon U are revising their course syllabi to include details about policies, protocols, and resources related to discrimination, harassment and GBV. (Faculty in Arts, Education and Health are expected to vote likewise soon. BUFA has already endorsed the initiative.) Earlier this Fall, media reports detailed the mishandling of an investigation into student athlete allegations against a coach. Students were apparently not referred to the sexual violence coordinator until 6 months after a generic harassment investigation concluded, and students are concerned that the hours of that coordinator have been reduced. “Making sure students are aware of it is the bare minimum, and that’s where we’re at. We’re at the 101 stage.”  Winnipeg Free Press

“Making sure students are aware of it is the bare minimum, and that’s where we’re at. We’re at the 101 stage.”Corinne Mason, Gender & Women’s Studies, Brandon U


Ongoing Efforts at Western

I’ve already written about the allegations of mass drugging and sexual assault in Western U residences during Orientation Week (see “Parties, Protests & Politics” for example), and the walkout by some 10,000 students on Sept 17. Western administration has been meeting with student government and others ever since. A Task Force on Sexual Violence and Student Safety has been renamed the Gender-Based and Sexual Violence Action Committee, and its leader says women don’t feel safe on campus because of what some call “an ingrained culture of misogyny, rape and toxic masculinity.” Western has made sexual violence awareness and prevention training mandatory for all students in residence, and is hiring 100 student residence health and safety advisors to work from 8pm until 5am every night.  London Free Press



Raising Awareness

#16Days began yesterday with IDEVAW, and will end on Dec 10, International Human Rights Day. It originated 30 years ago in 1991, so awareness activities are widespread around the world and across CdnPSE…


UNiTE by 2030

The UN’s UNiTE by 2030 to End VAW campaign, launched in 2008, calls on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, the private sector, the media and others to “join forces in addressing the global pandemic of VAWG.” It has proclaimed the 25th day of every month #OrangeDay, to raise awareness of VAWG year-round. UNiTE Campaign



The 2021 IDEVAW theme is “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!” Iconic buildings and landmarks worldwide are being “oranged,” and you can download bright orange social media banners yourself. Mount St Vincent U will light the front of its Seton Academic Centre in orange from Nov 25 through Dec 10, and fly the “End VAWG” flag. (Obviously, IDEVAW shouldn’t be confused with Sep 30, “Orange Shirt Day,” now also the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – see “Colour Us Orange.”)


Twitter Memes

CdnPSE is flooding Twitter with #16Days observations and memes, including these early examples from Brescia, Centennial, Laurier, Loyalist, Ontario Tech, Seneca, York, Vancouver Island U and Universities Canada. Fleming College’s Diversity and Inclusion Services and Student Experience teams will share daily posts on the College Twitter account throughout #16Days, “to engage us all in being part of the solution to ending gender-based violence.”


T-Shirt Campaign

Conestoga College, Laurier and uWaterloo have partnered with the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo on a #Purple4Prevention t-shirt campaign. Shirts “feature pro-consent messages and show solidarity for survivors of gendered and sexual violence.”  WLU


Laurier U is hosting virtual programming throughout #16Days, including Sexual Violence Response Certificate Workshops, a workshop on healing from trauma, and a panel discussion Nov 29 about “how institutional processes can be traumatic for survivors coming forward… and restorative justice pathways.”  WLU

McMaster, Nipissing, Ottawa, Queen’s and York are collaboratively hosting public events throughout #16Days, from mindfulness sessions, art therapy workshops and “a Survivor-Led Empowering Make-Up Night” to panels, lectures, workshops and plays about consent, femicide, transphobia, and campus safety.  York

Queen’s U students and staff are working with Kingston Interval House on a “sheet-making campaign” to counteract the misogynist slogans painted on sheets during Homecoming. People are invited to bring a sheet and paint to Victoria Park on Dec 3, and to hang the sheets Dec 6.  Kingston Whig-Standard

U South Wales launched the Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Network Wales yesterday. YouTube

Vancouver Island U’s Status of Women Committee will release a series of videos throughout #16Days, starting with this provocative 2-min one from Literacy Central Vancouver Island’s Indigenous Literacy Coordinator, Aimee Chalifoux, about psychological and economic oppression.  Twitter  |  YouTube




The #16Days include Dec 6, Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnic massacre. CdnPSE will observe the day in a variety of ways, but here are some early announcements…

Brock U will illuminate Schmon Tower in purple, on IDEVAW Nov 25 and on Dec 6 to mark the NDRAVAW, and has an asynchronous website to commemorate and educate about the Montreal Massacre and GBV.  Brock News

Laurier’s Instagram account will be taken over the afternoon of Dec 6 by the Gendered and Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team, to discuss activism and how to support survivors.  WLU

uManitoba Engineering will hold a virtual memorial service at 10am on Dec 6, in remembrance of the 14 victims of the Montréal Massacre, a senseless act of misogyny.  UM Today

Mount St Vincent U’s Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender & Social Justice will hold a virtual remembrance ceremony on Dec 6 at noon.  MSVU

Vancouver Island U will shine orange lights in the quad and hold a vigil Dec 6 to honour the 14 young women murdered at École Polytechnique in 1989.  VIU News

York U will hold a virtual Memorial Ceremony on Dec 6, to “honour those we have lost and reflect on renewing our commitment to take action on ending GBV.”  York



As always, my apologies to all the other CdnPSE events, research projects, and awareness efforts in this extensive space… this issue is already a bit on the longer side, so even if I had uncovered other examples I wouldn’t have been able to fit them all!




Just ICYMI, this PSA from May 2020 is worth a minute of your time…

Shadow Pandemic

Academy-award-winning actor Kate Winslet narrates this dramatic :60-sec PSA for UN Women describing the “Shadow Pandemic,” an alarming upsurge of domestic violence during the COVID19 pandemic. “Seemingly innocuous and familiar domestic scenes” are coupled with “an evocative music track” to reveal “a starkly different picture.” Winslet encourages you to check in on anyone you think might be in trouble, learn about local shelters and services, and even to call authorities if you suspect someone’s life is in immediate danger.  YouTube  |  Media Release



Thanks for reading, TGIF, and I hope you have a restful weekend.

As always, stay safe and be well!



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