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COVID-19's impact on domestic violence resources: There is still help available

Organization is in need of donations

 
Series: Coronavirus | Story 47

Last updated 4/6/2020 at 2:46pm



The governor’s stay-at-home order may be difficult for everyone – social plans canceled, schools and businesses closed, trips limited to the essentials – but can be even more so for those experiencing domestic violence and abuse. 

“Our biggest concern is for people who are quarantined, or are being told to stay inside – which we need to do – but for those who are with an abuser,” said Vicci Hilty, executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. “The fear factor wrapped around COVID-19 is just an additional stressor that adds to that volume of abuse, so it can be a really scary time for people.”

Hilty, who has been involved with the organization for 18 years, said call volume has gone down during this time of social distancing, but that’s what she expected.

“They don’t have an opportunity to make a phone call. Often they’re there with the abusive partner close by around them, and it just is not the safest time for them. So it’s not unusual (for call volume to go down). We assumed our call load would go down, and it has.”

She explained that stress caused by fear of the virus, potential job and income losses, and having the kids at home because of school closures, can exacerbate already abusive behavior. 

The stay-at-home order can be especially difficult for children used to getting out of the home on a regular basis. 

“Their one refuge was to go to school, to have a hot meal, get away for a little while – to have some normality in their life – and now being quarantined in a home without that is very, very hard for children,” Hilty said.

Most of the work the organization does is safety planning or helping people figure out a plan for when they are able to leave, and what it will look like. It also has emergency shelter and a legal advocate to help people navigate options. 

“A huge amount of work we do is safety planning with people, because often when they call they’re not sure how to leave,” Hilty said. The organization can connect people with resources, things they offer and people to talk to. “A call could go in many directions; it just depends on the call and what kind of situation they’re in.” 

She stressed that if a caller is experiencing an abusive incident, the organization tells them to call 911 immediately. 

“So we hope the community can be just like we are: keeping an eye on things, making yourselves available when you can, and referring (people to the organization’s 24/7 call line) when they can get away and make a call.”

Both women and men can be victims of abuse. Some signs of abuse include jealousy; intimidation; emotional abuse like name-calling, mind games, making someone feel guilty, minimizing, denying or blaming; and economic abuse like controlling money or not letting a partner work. 

“Those would just be some of the things. And they all fall under one thing: power and control, because that’s all domestic violence is – power and control,” Hilty said. 

The 24/7 support line is 425-25-ABUSE (425-252-2873).

What can people not experiencing abuse do to help?

Hilty stressed referring people to the above support line. “Honestly, the best thing to do right now is to help your family and friends, to be a good ear, to offer them our 24/7 support line to call when it’s safe.” 

She also said Domestic Violence Services is in need of monetary support and donations. 

“Financial help right now would be huge,” Hilty said. “The needs change. We can use that money in the way it needs to be done – to buy products we need, keep things clean.”

Hilty said the organization’s thrift store, New & Again Thrift Shoppe, has had to close during the stay-at-home order, so that income has gone away for the time being. Its other event, the 28th Annual Chocolate and Wine Lovers’ Gala, has also been postponed. It is now rescheduled for June 5. Hilty said about a third of the organization’s operating budget comes from that event. 

Donations can be sent by mail or online. 

“I will tell you any amount is huge. Let me assure you a $5 gift is important. That love and support, if people can, it would be a game-changer. It would really, really help in this time.”

If you are experiencing abuse, call 911 immediately. If you are searching for help from abuse, contact Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County’s 24/7 support line, 425-25-ABUSE (425-252-2873), or online at https://dvs-snoco.org/, when you are able. 

 

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