Twenty years ago, Astley, Bailey, Talbot, and Clarren (2000)  published a study that revealed how common intimate partner violence (IPV) was amongst mothers of children with FASD. The study showed the importance of thinking broadly about the risk factors and influences of FASD and demonstrated that preventing violence against women is also a preventative measure for FASD. Research efforts since Astley et al.’s study in 2000 have continued to show that IPV is an important factor to consider when supporting pregnant women who use alcohol and other substances .
This year, researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health (CEWH) have been conducting a rapid review to understand the complex, multi-directional relationship between IPV and substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide available and accessible research evidence to frontline providers . Since the implementation of stay at home orders and social distancing recommendations, use of substances and experiences of IPV have increased. Canadians have reported an 18% increase in alcohol consumption due to the stress, boredom, and lack of a regular schedule brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One in 10 Canadian women are concerned for their safety and calls to the Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver have tripled, demonstrating an increase in help seeking by women. These findings highlight the importance of understanding how public health policies and recommendations that help curb the spread of COVID-19 can be used by partners who cause harm in coercive and controlling ways.
In our efforts to prevent and reduce substance use during pregnancy, collaboration among service providers in substance use and IPV services is essential. Understanding the interconnectedness of these issues and how they are affected by pandemics and disasters can help us address them collectively. As examples, the Learning Network at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children  and Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter  have developed educational materials to help us understand how to support women who are experiencing IPV during the ongoing pandemic. As we deepen our understanding of the risk factors for FASD to include psychosocial factors such as IPV, materials like these can help us incorporate holistic support into service provisions and better support women who are experiencing violence and aggression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Astley, S. J., Bailey, D., Talbot, C., & Clarren, S. K. (2000). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) primary prevention through fas diagnosis: II. A comprehensive profile of 80 birth mothers of children with FAS. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 35(5), 509–519. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/35.5.509
- Statistics Canada, Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: Impacts of COVID-19. 2020, Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
- NANOS Research, COVID-19 and Increased Alcohol Consumption: NANOS Poll Summary Report. 2020.
- Statistics Canada. Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: Impacts of COVID-19. 2020; Available from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200408/dq200408c-eng.htm