Story by: SOPHIA CHANG
With New Yorkers increasingly staying home as part of a concerted effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, advocates for domestic violence victims say help is available for people who might find themselves suddenly trapped with their abusers.
“In this particular time, with COVID-19, home can be pretty intense for domestic violence victims and survivors, due to the abusers’ ability to further control,” Ruth Glenn, the president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told ABC News. “Survivors and children may have had some respite by going to work and school.”
“Abuse is about power and control,” Crystal Justice, chief development and marketing officer for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told VICE. “And an abuser can use any tool to exert that power and control, including a national health concern, such as COVID-19.”
Others fear child abuse may go unnoticed, as school closures mean victims won’t have access to teachers and counselors and school staff who are mandated reporters of suspected abuse.
“Survivors who co-parent their children with their abusers may be facing unique challenges during these times, such as barriers to visitation and/or increased exposure to the abuser due to lack of accessible childcare. For example, in order for a survivor to work, he/she/they may need to utilize their abuser for childcare,” according to the website for Sanctuary for Families.
In a release Friday, two Queens officials highlighted available resources for victims anywhere in the city to seek help:
“Social distancing and isolation doesn’t mean help is not ready and available,” said Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. “Essential government and frontline workers are still operational. If you’re afraid that your limited options are further constrained by the current call to Stay At Home, know this: we know you’re there, and when you are ready, essential services in Queens County remain live and ready today to assist you. Just call or reach help online.”
“Queens has one, simple, united message for those out there perpetuating a scourge as heinous as the abuse of a partner, child or elder: you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted,” said District Attorney Melinda Katz. “Our message to survivors is equally as simple: Help is available to all who need it, and it will remain available regardless of the developments of COVID-19.”
The following resources are available for phone or online assistance
NYC 24-Hour Hotline for Domestic Violence Survivors: 800-621-HOPE (4673)
Queens Family Justice Center: 718-575-4545 (available weekdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
Safe Horizon one-on-one online chat system: www.safehorizon.org/safechat (weekdays 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.)
Safe Horizon 24-Hour Hotline for all crimes, including support for family members of homicide victims: 866-689-HELP (4357)
Safe Horizon 24-Hour Hotline for Rape and Sexual Assault: 212-227-3000
In an emergency, call 911.