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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Domestic Violence Amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has nearly immobilized the entire world. Many governments have imposed sanctions requiring citizens to remain home as a tactic to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While quarantining is necessary to flatten the curve of new cases of infections, it’s important to remember that home is not a haven for all.

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says, “The number of women calling support services has doubled” while “healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed.” The National Coalition of Domestic Violence reports that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe physical and sexual violence from intimate partners, resulting in injury, fearfulness, and post-traumatic stress disorder. With so many lives at stake, it’s crucial to highlight steps victims can take to protect themselves during this time of vulnerability.

Resources and Tips for Victims
If you or someone you know needs access to resources, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Browse the internet in private mode when looking for domestic violence resources. Use search engines that do not collect historical data and give you the option to search the web anonymously. Google’s Incognito Window doesn’t remember your activity, so you can browse the web privately on mobile and desktop. 
  • Most domestic violence hotlines are local. When you search for resources make sure to add your zip code or city to find hotlines in your area. Many organizations offering guidance through hotlines are connected to women’s shelters. If you call a hotline outside your area, keep in mind that they can guide you through your situation, but will not be able to offer you shelter. 
  • Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline for anonymous, confidential help 24/7 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to TheHotline.org.
  • Search for shelters in your area. DomesticShelter.org is an online and mobile searchable directory of domestic violence programs and shelters in the U.S. and Canada, and a source of helpful tools and information for people experiencing and working to end domestic violence.
  • Call 911. If you or your children are in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911 for help. 

Highly-rated charities supporting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are working to give victims resources and educating communities on how to prevent it.

Laurie Cody, VP of Marketing and Development at SafeNest (★★★☆), a comprehensive nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence, says, “Calls to our 24/7 crisis hotline have already increased by 12 percent and we anticipate this upward trend to continue as the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve.”

In response, SafeNest has:

  • Expanded shelter capacity to include six apartments.
  • Implemented emergency protocols, including specific quarantine space, at their confidential shelter.
  • Relocated hotline staff from shelter to their main office in order to maintain CDC social distancing guidelines.
  • Transitioned individual and group counseling meetings to phone or video conferencing.

Cody also stresses the importance of having a safety plan. Because victims are in close proximity to an abuser over long periods of time, having a safety plan is critical right now. SafeNest is among many nonprofits who have had to pivot their services in response to the coronavirus.

While resources are limited during this time, experts encourage victims to seek shelter, counselors, therapists, and to use hotlines. Now more than ever, we have more of a responsibility to reach out to our friends and family, especially to those who are in known abusive relationships. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please know you are not alone.

Written by Giana Lozano, Marketing and Communications Assistant at Charity Navigator

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