Leaving an unsafe situation can present its own challenges, which is why Uber and YWCA Canada (along with local organizations Le Chaînon in Quebec and the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia) have teamed up to provide free rides and meals to survivors of domestic violence. "Say a person needs to go to a shelter, they can provide a ride to the shelter. If they need to go to a police station, they can provide a ride for that. If it’s to a family or a friend’s home, they can provide it,” says Tracey Breeden, head of women’s safety and gender-based violence programs at Uber (the company has increased efforts to support survivors of abuse in recent years since its own history of abuse came to light).
This support is especially important for women who live outside major city centres, adds Maya Roy, CEO of YWCA Canada. “In more northern and remote communities where they may not have public transportation, this is going to allow women to get to shelters in a safe way."
Every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her partner, and more than two-thirds of us know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. Since Canada went into lockdown six weeks ago, there have been spikes in reported cases of domestic abuse across the country, including a 300% increase in calls to Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Crisis Line and a 22% jump in calls to York Regional Police.
One in 10 Canadian women are very or extremely concerned about the possibility of domestic violence during the pandemic, according to a recent Statistics Canada survey. (In light of the increase in cases, the Canadian Women’s Federation has come up with hand signals so women suffering from intimate-partner violence can secretly gesture for help while on video chat.) “This pandemic has exposed things in our society that were already broken,” says Roy. “For a lot of women, being in lockdown in your home can potentially be a death sentence.”
Maryam Monsef, member of Parliament and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, told Refinery29 in a statement that she hopes Uber’s initiative acts as “another reminder" to surviviors of gender-based violence "that you are not alone." “To women and children suffering violence and trauma in abusive homes: there are hundreds of organizations across the country to support you.”
For anyone hoping to use this service, Uber is providing ride codes that people can access through the app. Alternatively, in the instance that an abuser has access to their phone, their local shelter can order rides. Globally, the company has committed to providing 50,000 free rides (about 7,500 in Canada).
As for meals, women are eligible for up to $25 worth of food for each meal from Uber Eats. Roy says this service is integral since it can be unsafe for survivors to go to the grocery store when they are trying to avoid their abusers or family members. “Even though we keep the locations of all of our shelters secret, if you are in a small town and you are grocery shopping in a different part of town, it raises questions and could potentially out a woman leaving an abusive relationship.”
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please visit the Ending Violence Association of Canada to find a local hotline. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the Public Health Agency of Canada website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.