Webinar #13: Data and Shelter Management During Times of Crisis

GNWS COVID-19 Webinar Series


  • Erica Olsen – National Network to End Domestic Violence, USA
  • Ghida Ananai – ABAAD, Lebanon
  • Netty Musanhu – SAFE Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe


  • Ashley Slye – National Network to End Domestic Violence, USA

United States

Erica Olsen:

Erica Olsen discusses disaster planning protocol and the protection of safety and privacy for survivors of domestic violence. It has been proven that perpetrators will take advantage of disasters such as the current pandemic, using it to control or abuse victims. Disasters not only increase vulnerability to domestic violence, but open up the possibility of a breach in data on survivors. An example of a privacy concern for survivors is being listed on safe lists of family reconnection websites where abusers are able to locate them. While it is well-intentioned, this has been an issue for DV survivors. 

Erica stresses the importance of helping survivors stay informed so they know what to expect and have strategies in case of a disaster. It is also important for shelters to be prepared as much as possible and have a plan on how to protect data amidst a disaster. This could include creating an inventory for all tech and software to better understand where data risks could be. It is additionally important to prepare staff on how to protect the privacy of survivors and have clear policies in place. 

Other strategies that Erica outlines include collecting less information about survivors is another way to minimize risk, critically thinking through access to data and thinking through where data is (e.g. backups on the computer, paper files, and multiple access points). 

Beth Meeks:

An important consideration during a disaster is insurance. In the US, the basic insurance people have on their homes and properties typically does not cover technology and documents. One of the universal things about disasters is that a lot of the technology we depend on is unreliable. Almost always, phone calls won’t go through but you often can access text messages and social media. 

Often in a disaster, shelters have to evacuate and survivors must do multiple intakes. A recommendation that Beth has is to have a policy where brand new intakes each time survivors move is not required; this way you can minimize risk of a data breach. Instead of sending a huge file per person, you can include a one-page sheet with any important information. 


Ghida Anani:

In Lebanon, there is a high percentage of migrant women who seek services. Many of these women are fleeing combatants across the border and protecting their information is especially important for their safety. There is a large, unique spectrum of man-made disasters (e.g. violent attacks, risk of conflict with neighbouring countries) in Lebanon that pose risks to the data of survivors. It is a daily challenge for staff to safely collect, safeguard and store data, especially if there is an emergency that forces evacuation.

Ghida suggests that we must rethink the way that we collect information from survivors. This could be by adjusting the kind of documents that the case workers in the shelter keep, thinking through the kind of adaptations for shelter programs in different contexts and disasters, and having a plan on how to protect the privacy and confidentiality of survivors if the shelter data is compromised. 


Netty Musanhu

Netty illustrates how Zimbabwe is a complex country with multilayered problems and the women who run shelters persevere through much. Local organizations have been struggling with how international guidelines for shelters can be adapted to local contexts. Netty’s organization, SAFE Zimbabwe, supports these local organizations in strengthening their data collection and management. They have developed standard operating procedures for shelters and provided expert support in how counseling could be adapted to COVID-19. In a context where resources are minimal, it can be difficult to manage the trauma amid a crisis, which is why it is important to provide support to the staff and help the shelter heal from trauma.

Previous Webinar Recordings

15 July 2020: https://bit.ly/GNWSWebinar12

1 July 2020: https://youtu.be/eRGpZeXyXxI

17 June 2020: https://youtu.be/mLEICnVTMNA

3 June 2020: https://youtu.be/aymp8kklfw4

20 May 2020: https://bit.ly/GNWS_8

6 May 2020: https://youtu.be/k2h0XGANrHM

29 April 2020: https://bit.ly/GNWS_6

22 April 2020: https://bit.ly/serving_survivors

15 April 2020: https://bit.ly/GNWS_4

8 April 2020: https://bit.ly/GNWSTech

1 April 2020: https://shelterasia.org/2020/04/01/report-on-coronavirus-webinar-2-policy-perspectives-on-protection-of-victims-of-domestic-violence/

25 March 2020: https://shelterasia.org/2020/03/27/video-and-qa-from-the-coronavirus-and-womens-shelters-planning-preparation-and-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-webinar

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Global Network of Women’s Shelters Helpline Project

As mentioned on the webinar, GNWS is collecting the national helpline for every country so victims and their friends and family have a place to find accurate support. Even if your country doesn’t have a national helpline, we want to know! In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also asking about text, chat, and email helplines. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief form so we can continue to update our list of helplines. If you have already completed the form, thank you so much. Your information is greatly appreciated!

Form in English: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc3ykdy9kjBqce58cGvFmpKv6DHiblZNnnWH6m0vmoqcAb67A/viewform

Forma en Español: https://forms.gle/X6Rw6hHM7Lo6SmC57

List of helplines listed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/safety/domesticviolenceresources