Dealing with Domestic Violence During Quarantine
Agencies offer unique services in response and share how community can help
While sheltering-in-place may look and feel different across the U.S. one thing is true: our homes should be considered one of the safest places to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic. For some however, staying at home poses an even greater risk to their health.
“We know that in crisis and troubled economic times domestic violence increases,” said Jenn Nussbeck, Chief Development Officer at Hope House. “This pandemic has the additional challenge for survivors in that they are being required to stay at home with their abuser.”
Jenn said Hope House continues to operate 24-hour hotlines, wrap-around services, shelter services and virtual visits. While the team initially saw incoming calls decrease, they have since seen a sharp incline.
She explained that in abusive relationships, survivors may rely on opportunities to leave the house as a private time to reach out for help. With the stay-at-home order in place, survivors may be unable to contact others without repercussions from the abuser, if they’re able to at all.
“This (shelter-in-place order) is understandable for the safety of the community as a whole but creates new challenges for us to address and requires us to think outside the box in how we reach and provide services for those in need,” Jenn said.
Remaining flexible is one of the organization’s top priorities as they learn more about the unfolding situation and determine how to best serve those in need. They continue to operate their two emergency shelters, but at limited capacity.
“We must continue to implement social distancing even in our shelters,” she said. “We’ve had to limit the number of people residing in our shelters to ensure the safety of all clients and staff.”
While they’re searching for ways to shelter people differently, including partnering with hotels, they’re still offering other outreach services through phone and web contact.
“Even when a partner agency or service is closed, such as the courts, we are still working on new ways to connect with those in need and support them as they navigate through this crisis,” she said.
Throughout the years, United Way of Greater Kansas City has supported the direct services Hope House provides, including the 24-hour crisis hotline, shelter, therapy, court advocacy, civil legal and BridgeSPAN Hospital Advocacy Programs.
“United Way’s support spans the agency’s residential and outreach programming, ensuring Hope House’s comprehensive services continue without interruption,” she said.
Although the hotline has seen a drastic increase in calls, Jenn is hopeful for Kansas City’s continued support of their mission. She said community members can help by identifying and connecting with victims who may be unable to reach the hotline. They can also call the hotline to learn about formulating a safety plan for a victim and ask questions about domestic violence.
“It is critical that those victims have a connection to their lifelines who are their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers,” she said. “We can all help and it will literally be the difference between life and death.”