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Domestic violence organizations helping victims during COVID-19

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: March 30, 2020 08:15 PM

Domestic violence organizations are working on helping victims in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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Local organizations like PAVSA, CASDA, and Safe Haven continue assisting victims virtually. PAVSA launched virtual check-in's through Gruveo, an online call service.

Those in need of services like crisis counseling can access the link online. From there, victims are given the choice to do a video or audio call and it directly connects them with a PAVSA advocate during their business hours, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It doesn’t replace the interaction of seeing someone for support face to face but we hope that offering different options for folks that we can meet needs of what people are looking for,”  said Sara Niemi, the executive director of PAVSA.

PAVSA staff say you don't need to download anything or sign up for anything to access it. It will prompt you to put in your name, but PAVSA staff say victims who call can just use their first name or anonymous if they are concerned about confidentiality.

“This is an isolating and stressful time for people and although our help looks a little different than it normally does we are still able to offer assistance for people needing to file police reports or protective orders,” said Niemi.

PAVSA staff say victims who call can also leave a voice message and they’ll get back to those who call as soon as they can.

PAVSA also continues to be available 24/7 through their crisis hotline at 218-726-1931. The email to contact them is pavsa@pavsa.org PAVSA's sexual assault nurse examiners will still respond to local hospitals based on their availability.

CASDA's helpline is being answered 24/7 as well at 715-392-3136 or 800-649-2921. They say this is the best way to get a hold of advocates that can help victims with whatever resources they need. 

"Calls to our helpline last week were a bit down but of course the fear there is wondering if calls are down because victims have limited chances where they are alone and feel safe to call," said Jill Hinners, the community engagement coordinator for CASDA. "Many survivors are triggered right now by extra stress of the bigger picture situation. We are finding that both new people and ongoing clients are reaching out for that emotional support because they need someone to talk to."

CASDA posted on their website:

"Despite the impact on our full scope of services, CASDA is committed to supporting victims and survivors of abuse. We will continue to triage incoming calls and to offer crisis counseling, safety planning, and information/referrals. Advocates will remain in touch with clients via remote channels wherever possible."

CASDA is also still taking in those in need of emergency shelter and have staff on duty 24/7. They are following CDC guidelines to ensure social distancing and a healthy environment.

April is a big month for organizations like PAVSA and CASDA with sexual assault and child abuse awareness month. CASDA says they are planning on hosting virtual events to continue raising awareness. 

The Safe Haven shelter is open 24/7 but are not able to offer drop-in services at this time. Survivors seeking shelter have to call first to arrange for their safe entry into Safe Haven. 

The shelter says they have policies and procedures in place to maintain a healthy environment in adherence to CDC guidelines.

Safe Haven reminds friends, family, and coworkers that they play a vital safety role in this situation as well:

o If you think someone you know is in an abusive relationship, reach out to the crisis hotline.

o Equip yourself with as much information as possible: inform yourself on how to support someone in an abusive situation. Ask questions, listen, validate, help strategize a plan to stay as safe as possible.

o Check in regularly with the victim/survivor through phone calls, texts, emails, mail – without naming your concerns. Drop a meal or supplies off at their doorstep. Let the person know you are continuing to think about them.

A lot of these shelters are facing a shortage of necessary supplies to maintain safe and healthy living environments for people seeking a safe place to live during the pandemic. Safe Haven is asking folks to donate cleaning and sanitary supplies (toilet paper, disinfecting spray and hand sanitizer.)

Safe Haven continues to also offer their legal advocacy team to help survivors with things like orders of protection. Their crisis hotline is answered 24/7 at 218-728-6481.

"The need for our work continues to increase as the stress of a global pandemic pushes victims ever closer to those that hurt them. The unfortunate reality is that not all of us are actually safer at home. Our major concern is that those most impacted by domestic violence are feeling even more isolated from their support networks," said Brittany Robb, the executive director of Safe Haven.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also answering via phone, text and online chat at 1-800-799-7233 or at https://www.thehotline.org/

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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