Story By: Megan Diskin
In a time of stay-in-place orders and closed public spaces, Ventura County groups that provide services for people in abusive relationships are still offering help.
The Coalition For Family Harmony, Interface Children & Family Services and the Ventura County Family Justice Center are working to heed the advice of the Ventura County Public Health Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, each agency helps a vulnerable population. Among the population are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse and child abuse.
The growing need to limit the spread of the virus by staying home is likely to become stressful for people who experience violence inside the home, said Caroline Prijatel-Sutton, the coalition’s executive director.
The organization’s Oxnard-based office is still open but staffing at the physical space is limited, Prijatel-Sutton said. Counseling will continue either over the phone or video conference, she said. The coalition is going to work with clients who don’t have these resources on a case-by-case basis, Prijatel-Sutton said.
“We don’t want to lose people, especially when they are in the middle of a crisis,” the executive director said.
Additionally, the coalition’s shelter for those experiencing domestic violence or people who are in rape crisis will remain open. Men, women and children are allowed inside and the shelter will practice social distancing, Prijatel-Sutton said. The shelter will accept as many new intakes as it possibly can under the current public health crisis, she said.
The address of the shelter is not released to the public. People can call the coalition’s bilingual 24/7 hotline at 800-300-2181 to get help creating an escape plan, Prijatel-Sutton.
The coalition’s executive director suggests people in an abusive relationship call the hotline and make a plan to escape. If they can’t make the call themselves, a friend or loved one can make the call to start creating and implementing a plan to get out, Prijatel-Sutton said.
Communicating with a people who are in these types of relationships is also recommended during this time, she said.
“I think the best thing to do is just keep in contact with people,” Prijatel-Sutton said.
The coalition’s office line, available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, can be reached at 805-983-6014.
Interface Children & Family Services also has a 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic violence. To get connected to it, call 800-636-6738.
“Interface understands the impact the current COVID-19 crisis is having on families and the heightened risk the added stress and social distancing poses for those who have been experiencing abuse,” the Camarillo-based organization said in a statement. “While we are modifying our approach to provide more services via telecommunication during this time, we want to assure the community that our family violence intervention services are still available to assist victims in need.”
Similar to the coalition, Interface provides crisis counseling, safety planning, shelter and advocacy.
Interface also runs the county’s free 211 information line. People looking for help can call that number to get connected to services related to the public health crisis or crisis counseling. They can also connect via text. A person texts their zip code to 898-211 then follows the prompts, the organization said.
The 211 group provides information in 240 languages with the use of translators and was asked to take over the Ventura County Public Health hotline. Interface trained an additional 40 employees and 30 volunteers from the community and the Camarillo and Oxnard Boys and Girls Clubs, according to the agency.
It is also handling coronavirus-related texts and calls from Shasta, Sonoma, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.
Staff at the coalition and Interface work closely with the Ventura County Family Justice Center. They are partners in providing full-service help all in one place at the new center located at 3170 Loma Vista Road in Ventura.
The center remain is expected to be open to walk-ins on the days the Ventura County Superior Court is open. This week, the court is open on Thursday and Friday.
When the center is closed to walk-ins, people seeking help can call the center at 805-652-7655. It will be staffed with victim advocates, partners like the coalition and Interface and others, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Jump.
Although the center is under the umbrella of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, people seeking help are not required to report these incidents to law enforcement.