With surge in domestic violence during pandemic, local agencies call on community to seek help for victims
Locally, domestic violence agencies and advocates want the public to know that help is available. As essential service providers, agencies and shelters across southwestern Pennsylvania are open. While complying with social distancing measures, they are working to both reach and support victims of abuse. These agencies offer 24-hour helplines to provide support and information, safety planning, assistance with filing Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders, emergency safe housing, and resources for families and individuals. They are also launching a communications campaign to grow community awareness.
Abuse is shockingly common; as many as one in three women experience violence at the hands of a partner. “Stress does not cause domestic violence. But when someone is already controlling their partner, added stress – like losing a job or worrying about bills – can escalate emotional or verbal abuse into physical and sexual violence,” says Kristy Trautmann, executive director of FISA Foundation. “Social distancing is critically important to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and keep individuals and families safe, but it also means that severe forms of abuse can occur with no one knowing or being in a position to intervene. I’m very worried.”
In fact, requests for help have decreased for most local domestic violence agencies.
“It’s very concerning,” says Nicole Molinaro, CEO of Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. “Victims are trapped in their homes with an abuser and may be unable to seek help – they can’t go out and many can’t even safely call a domestic violence program. This is a time when we need to pull together as a community. Everyone – concerned family members, neighbors, co-workers – need to find a way to safely check on each other through calls, texts and messages. If you’re worried that someone is unsafe, you can call a local hotline for help and advice about what you can do safely to help. It’s important to consult with experts to develop a plan that won’t make the situation worse.”
Free, confidential support is available 24/7. For a full listing of agencies serving the 10-county area, visit: https://southwestpasaysnomore.org/help/.
If it’s not safe or possible to make a call, text LOVEIS to 22522 or log in to thehotline.org to chat or text confidentially with a domestic violence expert.