Story By: David Russell
Forced time together in quarantine during the coronavirus crisis can exacerbate violent situations for those suffering from domestic abuse. The Family Justice Center and police have tips for people looking for help.
“Love should never hurt.”
That’s the message from the NYPD as shelter-in-place orders during the coronavirus crisis have domestic violence victims stuck at home in many cases.
“Stressors (unemployment, forced time together) can all exacerbate already violent situations,” the NYPD Domestic Violence Unit tweeted April 15.
Gothamist reported on April 23 that there have been 19 domestic violence murders this year, four more than last year through the same time.
Speaking on 1010 WINS last week, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea called the increase in domestic murders “incredibly troubling.”
Family Justice Centers, operated by the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, are temporarily closed, but employees are working remotely and are still available to help those in need.
“I don’t think in my experience I’ve ever seen something happen so quickly where we need to pivot and figure out how to provide these services in a unique way,” said Jennifer DeCarli, assistant commissioner for Family Justice Centers and Outreach.
Noting that “everybody’s safety plan looks different,” DeCarli said there are creative ways to remain safe for victims afraid to call 911 with an abuser near.
Many survivors prefer communicating via email. A person can also develop code words with family, friends or a case worker.
“So if they’re talking on the phone or even if they’re emailing and their partner comes in the room, saying something like, ‘I was thinking about going to get groceries tonight or whatever that phrase or that code word is going to be, meaning that conversation needs to end,” DeCarli said.
She said that people can also set up group chats with family and friends.
“Social distancing doesn’t need to mean emotionally distant,” DeCarli said.
Then someone could put a code word in the chat so a friend or family member can call 911 for the person.
On the case workers’ side, open-ended questions may not be as safe as ones that lead to simple answers and less talking.
“COVID-19 puts into sharp focus the vulnerabilities that many people in our city face every day, especially gender-based violence survivors; and it highlights the barriers and challenges that we know keep people from seeking help and finding safety,” said ENDGBV Commissioner Cecile Noel in a statement.
On the policing side, Capt. Jonathan Cermeli, commander of the 110th Precinct, said, “During these times we’re definitely paying closer attention because there are more people staying home and not going out so there is a propensity toward domestic violence.”
Cermeli said if someone is in immediate danger to call 911. When people are concerned about potential future violence, they should call their area precinct and talk to the domestic violence unit, which can result in an “increase in visiting their location or help them get an order of protection or whatever we can do to keep them safe.”
People can reach FJC staff by calling (718) 575-4545 or the city’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1 (800) 621-4673.
More services can be found by visiting nyc.gov/NYCHOPE.