October 28, 2020

Get Involved

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For this guest post, we asked our friends at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence to share a bit about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting survivors, advocates, and service providers.

Statewide domestic abuse helpline: 1-866-834-4357
Deaf or hard of hearing: 1-800-473-1220

Since the arrival of COVID-19 in Maine, we’ve seen an outpouring of concern and care for Mainers at risk from abusive partners and family members. Here’s what you need to know this Domestic Violence Awareness Month:

  • The pandemic has increased risk. Abusive people seize on whatever they can to exert control over their partners and families, and the pandemic presents them with new weapons. We have heard from survivors about how their abusive partners use COVID-19 to justify trapping them in the house.  We’ve heard from others that their partners threaten to purposefully expose them to the virus. Many survivors talk about existing in limbo as family matter cases that would settle questions of custody have been held up for months. And while factors like stress, anxiety and unemployment do not cause abuse, they certainly can increase the risk posed by people who are abusive who may escalate their abusive tactics in response.
  • Survivors are isolated – some more than others. For survivors who already face steep challenges in accessing help – for example, survivors who are LGBTQ+ and who have been left out of the public response to abuse, or survivors who are immigrants and who speak limited English – the pandemic adds additional barriers. More than ever, it is critical that our communities work in ways that are welcoming, accessible, safe and flexible to meet the needs of people who are particularly at risk and whose experiences have often been rendered invisible.
  • Advocates are still here. Even though domestic abuse programs have transitioned how they are delivering many of their services – for example, instituting virtual video support groups and holding in-person meetings by appointment only – MCEDV’s member programs have continued supporting survivors throughout the pandemic. Calls to helplines were up 20% in the first quarter of the pandemic, with 97% of survivors reporting that we met their needs, even when we could not meet face-to-face.
  • Health care providers have a unique role to play. Sometimes an appointment with a health care provider may be the one chance someone has to get out of the house, connect with other people, and have a private conversation. Now more than ever, we need providers to be aware of the dynamics of domestic abuse, to screen for it, and to offer resource information and facilitate connections with advocates for the patients they are seeing.

Unsure what to do next? Check in on your people. Create space for connection and interrupt isolation. The pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, and we must be one another’s safety nets.

Anyone can call the 24/7 domestic violence helpline to get a confidential, private consult about how we can help someone in our lives. Advocates are there to help think through how to best support someone experiencing abuse… And they can help us think through how to respond when someone we know and care for is treating their partner and family in ways that cause concern.

For more info:
Statewide domestic abuse helpline: 1-866-834-4357
Deaf or hard of hearing: 1-800-473-1220