Joelle Piercy, LSW, MSS, MLSP
SPEAK Community Outreach Coordinator
Imagine for a moment living in constant fear of your partner. Think about the confusion, guilt, shock, and anxiety that shapes every waking moment. Despite wanting to leave the relationship, there are so many potential dangers that overshadow your future planning; each day is a back and forth between “I have to stay” and “I have to leave.”
Now imagine facing all of those feelings in a time of pandemic danger and economic uncertainty. This is the challenge currently facing domestic abuse survivors who are thinking about ending violent relationships. How can I leave when the entire nation is in crisis?
The pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges that survivors of domestic abuse face as they plan to end an abusive relationship. Economic abuse, which is one of the main reasons that people give for not being able to leave, is now compounded by the increased economic instability of widespread joblessness, housing evictions, and childcare closures. For many, social distancing has meant extreme isolation with an abusive partner, limiting the survivor’s access to information they need to safely leave and decreasing the opportunities for a survivor to implement a plan to leave. Finally, the fear of COVID-19 and its impacts may lead a survivor to worry about increased exposure, making leaving the relationship seem dangerous, impossible, or not-worth-the-risk.
Safe+Sound Somerset has taken all of this into account, and made several changes to address some of these changing obstacles for survivors:
- We have implemented creative ways to reach people who might need our services, including partnering with local foodbanks to distribute flyers in English and Spanish, hosting webinars for professionals and the general public, and creating Ask Ava podcasts that addresses questions about abuse and our services.
- Our 24/7 Call and Text hotline is staffed with trained professionals work with survivors to develop personalized safety plans that consider COVID-19 concerns. Our hotline calls have increased 35% during the pandemic, and we continue to meet this increased need.
- We took steps to assure the safety of clients in our emergency Safe House, including limiting the number of families, and providing assistance and referrals for basic needs such as food, baby supplies, and personal care items.
- Through our Financial Empowerment Center, our new Housing First services will connect survivors with sustainable independent housing.
- All of our programs, including Counseling, Legal Advocacy, Financial Empowerment, Housing First, Family Advocacy, DVRT, and Domestic Violence Liaisons continue to operate virtually, assuring the safety of all of our clients and staff members.
If you would like more information about domestic violence, S+SS services, or safety planning, you can call or text our 24/7 hotline at 866-685-1122. For additional information, or to request a customizable presentation for your group or organization, visit www.safe-sound.org