For many families, the coronavirus stay-at-home order has had an unexpected benefit: Parents and children bonded in ways they never had before. They learned to co-exist in new ways. They grew closer. But not all families sheltering together had that experience.
In homes marked by domestic violence and sexual assault, conditions quickly became far worse for the victims. Suddenly an abused mom could not leave home for a safe haven. A woman or child suffering from sexual assault at the hands of a co-sheltering adult feared going to the hospital for treatment and seeking help from the legal system.
“COVID-19 has been especially unkind to people trapped at home with their abuser,” said De Stewart, an advocate with YWCA Clark County’s Sexual Assault program. “We know that 94% of victims of sexual abuse know their offender. COVID puts many folks, including children and young adults, at risk for intimate partner violence.”
Statistics bear her out. In a recent story from National Public Radio, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network said instances of abuse reported by youth 18 and younger had spiked during the lockdown. Twothirds said their abuser was a family member.
YWCA’s headquarters on Main Street were closed by the pandemic. But its services for those victimized by abusers remain fully operational. As soon as it was apparent a lockdown would force home isolation, YWCA leadership mapped out a strategy for responding to the new conditions. Online staff meetings replaced the weekly gatherings around a table at work. Systems were set up to forward calls immediately to advocates working from home. Safe havens were found to temporarily house survivors. Advocates are on the job around the clock, connecting with victims and survivors by phone calls, text messages, and secure online channels.