Community Connection: You don’t have to stay — local businesses join Advocates to reach domestic violence victims in COVID-19 era
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Around the entire world, reports of domestic violence have spiked since the emergence of COVID-19. One national leader in violence prevention, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has seen a 26% increase in its call volume. Everywhere, it appears, stay-at-home orders have resulted in victims facing prolonged exposure to their abusers. Unfortunately, our community is no different.
Even prior to COVID-19, domestic violence victims faced massive challenges that trapped them in abusive relationships: fear of more extreme violence, threats to children, financial/ housing dependence, mental manipulation, etc. Now, with the compounded stress of job losses, school closures and a looming, lethal pandemic restricting our mobility, victims of domestic abuse need support now perhaps more than ever.
When victims do choose to leave their abusive situations, it is often because they have in-person access to their community, where they may find allies, services and resources. Being confined to home for days, weeks or months on end drastically limits a victim’s ability to find a way out, especially while simultaneously facing more abuse.
With the surge in COVID-19 cases exploding across the country, we are very likely to face renewed social restrictions and stricter orders. So in preparation, Advocates of Routt County is collaborating with local businesses to streamline a victim’s access to intervention services.
Even while quarantining, every household still needs basic goods and services, so victims could still have access to essential service businesses and agencies. Seeing a vital window of opportunity, Advocates has engaged with dozens of these businesses across the county to put visual markers on public display for domestic violence victims to know they can leave their abusive situations, complete with a SafeLine phone number they can call to put the process in motion.
But this project goes beyond merely posting a phone number. The images on display also include special code words, which when spoken to any staff member at participating businesses, initiates a step-by-step process to ensure the safety of a victim and provide them with immediate access to law enforcement, hospital resources and/ or crisis support from Advocates.
Advocates of Routt County mission: To support and empower all people impacted by sexual violence and abusive relationships while disrupting all systems that tolerate and perpetuate such violence.
For more information: Visit advocatesrc.org.
These collaborations can make a huge difference in the life of a victim and build solidarity around confronting domestic violence throughout our community. Together, we must continue finding ways to pierce through the extreme isolation that quarantined victims are facing. As individuals, we must stay alert to those in our lives in potentially dangerous circumstances at home.
Reach out, touch base or check in on anyone in a questionable or “complicated” relationship, because that connection may prove to be a lifeline they desperately need but cannot find on their own. The stakes are extremely high for domestic violence victims — especially if new stay-at-home orders are imposed — and we must do all we can to support them.
If you, or someone you know, are facing an abusive situation, please contact Advocates’ SafeLine at 970-879-8888 or email email@example.com at any hour, any day of the week. If your business or organization wants to participate in this public safety initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graham Hackett is the social change program manager for Advocates of Routt County.
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