Domestic violence is often stereotyped to look like bruises on battered women and sound like loud arguments from neighbors. However, it’s important to remember there are many behaviors used by an abuser to maintain power & control. Domestic violence has different forms including physical and sexual violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation.
We know external factors that add stress, isolation, and financial strain can create circumstances where a survivor’s safety is further compromised. When survivors are forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, an abuser can use any tool to exert control over their victim, including a global health concern such as COVID-19.
The Impact of COVID-19 to HOPE
During the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, domestic violence centers across the country were experiencing a slight decrease in cases and hotline calls. In fact, the National Hotline for Domestic Violence shared that its contact volume in March 2020 decreased by 6% compared to the previous year. At HOPE Family Services during the month of March 2020, we experienced a similar decrease in hotline calls, compared to March 2019. (The HOPE Family Services 24-Hour HelpLine is (941) 747-8499) We believe the decrease occurred because this global pandemic has put up unique barriers for survivors to access support safely.
The 24/7 Live ChatLine on our website is a service where survivors can talk to advocates without the fear of being overheard by their abuser. Over the last three months (March 2020 - May 2020) we have received 248 chats from survivors in our community.
During this time of great uncertainty, one of the most important services our advocates offer is personalized safety planning. This could not be more critical during this three-month period as survivors navigated shelter-in-place requirements with reduced in-person support services because of social distancing.
As quarantine orders began to lift throughout the country, our HelpLine contact volume from March 2020 to May 2020 had an increase of 14%. As Florida lifted its safer-at-home orders and survivors found brief windows to contact our advocates safely. Even when the major threat of this pandemic is over, there will be long-term effects on the health and safety of survivors – and we must prioritize their safety and their needs.
The effects of COVID-19 will continue to be felt by survivors - Here’s how you can help:
Many of us feel socially isolated and fearful of the uncertainty of this pandemic. These feelings are only amplified for survivors of domestic violence. You can help a survivor by being supportive, helping to focus their attention on the things they can control, and encouraging them to practice self-care. For more tips on how to stay safe during COVID-19, click here.
If you suspect someone you care about is experiencing unhealthy behaviors in their relationship, reach out and connect with them. The connection and support you provide could be critical for a survivor’s well-being.
Wondering how to support and give back to survivors? Please help us spread the message that HOPE is here and survivors are not alone, by sharing our posts on social media, especially Instagram and Facebook. You can also support our services by donating (clothing and household items) or shopping at the HOPE Chest thrift store, located at 1215 8th Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205. The proceeds from purchases at HOPE Chest directly impact the lives of survivors in our community.
If you are feeling unsafe during this time, or if you are concerned that a family member, friend or neighbor may be in danger, please call (941) 747-8499 or if you’re unable to speak safely, visit our 24/7 Live Chatline: www.hopefamilyservice.org