Advocates who help survivors of domestic violence are preparing for an onslaught of need they cannot yet see, with many Coloradans stuck in abusive homes due to the coronavirus response.
“We certainly see programs across the state resting up, cleaning up and stocking up and getting ready for what will undoubtedly be a surge in victims of domestic violence reaching out,” said Amy Pohl, associate director of Violence Free Colorado.
Colorado is currently under a statewide stay-at-home order in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which means many survivors are isolated at home with their abusers.
“Isolation is a tactic that is used every day by people using abusive behaviors. It's a way to manipulate and to gain power and maintain control over victims. And so when there is government-imposed isolation, those tactics are simply escalated,” Pohl said.
Violence Free Colorado has not seen a significant increase in calls for help so far. But Pohl said in an interview that she believes that is because people who are being abused simply are not in a position to reach out for help yet.
“We know on a national level when we've experienced these kinds of crises before, natural disasters or events that have impacted huge communities, that we don't see an increase in calls right away because people are really trying to deal with their basic needs. Making sure that they have food and toiletries, making sure they have care for their children, figuring out what's going on with their work life. Once those things get a little more settled, for lack of a better term, they might be able to turn their attention back toward trying to figure out what to do about the violence that's happened,” Pohl said.
Social distancing efforts have forced many businesses to close down, leaving record numbers of Coloradans out of work. Advocates say that is another warning sign that there may be increasing violence happening inside homes across the state.
“We're really worried about the financial impact on victims. Finances are a huge reason that people stay in abusive relationships. If they have now lost their job or they don't have child care or they have new health concerns, it's going to be very difficult for them to safely leave an abusive situation and have a place to go and a way to support themselves and their children,” Pohl said.
Advocates say they want to emphasize the message that help is available when survivors are ready to ask for it.
“I think that one of the biggest considerations right now is about doing what's best for your situation at that time, taking a moment and taking the time to figure out what a safety plan is for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this,” said Tamika Washington, the community impact manager at Violence Free Colorado. “Services may be looking a little different right now around the state, but all of our domestic violence organizations are still up and running and we encourage individuals to reach out and look for that support.”
Violence Free Colorado has compiled COVID-19 specific resources for organizations about how they can best support people affected by domestic violence during the pandemic.
If you feel unsafe:
TheNational Domestic Violence Hotline advocates are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages. All calls are free and confidential. Advocates offer the same support through our live chat services. Click here for info about the chat or click the "Chat Now" button to start a chat.
Violence Free Colorado has compiled a county-by-county listing of programs that offer help statewide.
The StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483) is a culturally-appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT.
24/7 Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453 Prevent Child Abuse America’s resources and tips for parents, children and others.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 as 1-1800-656-HOPE (4673) and throughlive chat.
Colorado Crisis Services provides help with mental health crises at 844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.
It may be difficult right now to report child/elder abuse and neglect via county offices. Make a direct call to theColorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 844-CO-4-Kids to report child abuse and/or neglect, or for elder abuse and/or abuse against adults with intellectual & developmental disabilities, see this table ofcounty specific Adult Protective Services (APS) contacts.