A photo of three apples with stickers explaining statistics about domestic violence.

Bruised fruit: supermarket display on the Danforth shines light on domestic violence

A new display featuring hidden messages among bruised fruit about domestic violence will be on display at The Big Carrot on the Danforth for the month of July as part of partnership between Interval House and UNION.

“A pandemic within a pandemic” is how many have begun to describe domestic abuse, reports of which have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic due to more families spending even more time indoors together, where moments of escape are far more difficult to come by. 

Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline alone fielded 20,334 calls between October and December 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year, according to a recent CBC report. 

Typically, taking children to school, going to the grocery store and visiting friends are avenues of relief for abuse victims, but not in the last year and a half and through much of Ontario’s lockdown, which only recently has begun to loosen. 

In hopes of bringing a spotlight to this continued issue, Interval House, the first centre for abused women and children in Canada, and advertising agency UNION have come together to create the “Bruised Fruit” awareness campaign. It features supermarket fruit displays with hidden messages educating shoppers on intimate partner violence, which doesn’t lift like COVID-19 restrictions. One of the few safe havens for abused women, the supermarket is one of the few places their abusers will allow them to go. 

Upon first glance, the market display appears to be nothing more than a stand of over-ripened apples, but each bruised fruit confronts people with the rotten truth of abuse with important messages like “during the pandemic, abusive relationships become more physically violent” or “isolation creates the perfect conditions for abusers to exert control.” The sticker on each apple also provides discreet contact information for Interval House’s 24/7 crisis line. The campaign is currently on display at The Big Carrot (348 Danforth Ave.) until the end of July, and at Unboxed Market (1263 Dundas St. W.) until the first week of August.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, intimate partner violence has increased by over 30% in Canada, yet there’s been a decline in women coming to Interval House to escape their situation,” explains Paula Del Cid, Interval House manager of shelter services and outreach. “They are now also more isolated at home and often around their abusers 24/7 with less opportunities to get away and reach out for help. One of the places we knew they could go on their own was the grocery store. The produce sticker allowed us to provide crucial information, such as our 24/7 crisis line, in a way that could be easily concealed. It also allowed us to raise public awareness about the rise in intimate partner violence during the pandemic, even though it’s been more hidden away than ever.”

Interval House’s hope is to see a rise in callers to its crisis line and more participants in its Building Economic Self-Sufficiency (BESS) program so its staff can help support them in rebuilding their lives, and help them get to a place where they can leave the violence behind.

“The message we hope women receive through this campaign is that Interval House is still open, safe, COVID-free and welcoming to those who need it during these difficult times,” adds Del Cid. “We offer essential services that nurture families, starting with crisis intervention, providing emergency shelter services and then addressing and supporting their re-integration into the community and the workforce. Our programs offer women and their children practical and emotional support to start rebuilding their lives, and to break the cycle of violence for good.”  

Interval House often sends messages of support in this sort of low-key way in order to better protect abuse victims. In its previous collaboration with UNION, the staff launched “the way we live/leave” campaign, which was a secret website that covertly helped women leave their abusive relationships. 

If anything, their creative efforts shine even more of a light on how important the issue of intimate partner violence is, and how we all need to start paying attention.

If you are experiencing any type of violence and wish to speak to someone, call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511, the Victim Services Toronto helpline at 416-808,7066 or the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre at 416-597-8808. 

Article exclusive to TRNTO