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Help Available To Those In Hostile Situation

All over the world, people have been asked to stay home due to COVID-19, and everyone’s safety. The term “safety” in this case is in regards to health. Unfortunately for victims of domestic violence that request may be keeping them safe from the pandemic but is causing a dangerous situation. Where victims were able to leave if a volatile situation arises, they are not able to do so. Avoiding the residence is not possible for those who have to work from home or not go into work. A quarantine puts a victim in a situation where they are in constant contact with and control by their abuser.

More than 3/4 of the US population have been told to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, making nowhere safe for victims of intimate partner violence. (IPV) Abusers are using COVID-19 as a means to further isolate victims from family and friends. They do this by threatening to throw the victim out of the house if they get sick, withhold financial resources or even medical assistance. For these individuals, the only thing worse than being confined at home is being confined at home with their abuser. For some, having the abuser go to work or them being able to leave was the only opportunity to be away from the violence.

The stress of everyone being together, possible financial issues due to job loss, not being able to be connected with normal support systems could even trigger unsafety in homes where violence may have not been an issue before. There may be the inability to go to a shelter due to them being understaffed, possibly closed or the victim being monitored all of the time. Victims are not able to utilize their “safety plans”, leaving them in an even worse situation of control, fear and possible physical abuse. Concern for children is at an all-time high. Stress levels have increased, which in turn can manifest into physical and emotional abuse towards children. The possibility of the virus causing severe financial issues, may make it even more difficult for victims to leave their abusive situation. The lack of income can manifest into decreased food supply. Some parents may then keep food from the children, feeding themselves first. Calls to child-protective agencies are plentiful while at the same time said agencies are experiencing a decrease in staff.

Safety planning is vital to navigate through this unprecedented time. When making a plan take into account, the resources you have access to and if you do not know where to start ask for help. Here is a recommended plan of action:

¯ Pack a bag if you haven’t already.

¯ Know where your phone is — make sure it is charged

¯ If things escalate make sure you are in a room with an easy exit. (not the kitchen where knives are or a bathroom, where there is no way out)

¯ Have a system for staying in touch with loved ones.

¯ Explain the plan to your children. Have a special word they know when they need to call 911.

¯ If there is a gun in the house, know where it is stored.

¯ Reach out to a hotline via phone, text or chat. The local hotline number is (800) 252-8748 or the NYS DV hotline at (800) 799-7233 if you can safely do so.

The community can also do its part. If someone you know is in an unsafe, possibly dangerous situation call your local police agency. When doing this explain your concerns and ask for a “well- being check” is needed. Officers will respond and if, at that time, the victim does not disclose they will know that someone is watching and are there to help.

Locally there are resources for those who need help while living in a volatile household, leaving a toxic situation, counseling referrals, shelter information or any other assistance someone may need. The following is some of the many agencies that offer assistance to such individuals.

¯Project Crossroads, a Domestic Violence Investigation Unit, is a partnership between the Jamestown Police Department and Family Service of the Chautauqua Region. Project Crossroads assists victims with referrals, if needed police involvement and many other resources. Their phone number is 483-7718.

¯ Family Service of The Chautauqua Region works to strengthen the mental health and well-being of individuals, families & our community. They offer varying forms of counseling; house calls; School based Social Work; Hispanic Outreach and Project Crossroads. Their number is 488-1971.

¯ The Salvation Army Anew Center has a 24 hours/day hotline staffed by crisis counselors. (800) 252-8748. They provide secure 24 hours/day shelter for victims. Support staff offer assistance with emotional, medical and legal issues. Case managers are available for victims, shelter and non-shelter. Children and Family Outreach Program (CFOP) is available for children victims of abuse. Their phone number is 661-3897.

¯ Child Advocacy Program (CAP) whose mission is to end child abuse. They offer counseling services, child protective services, medical and advocacy services along with working with the district attorney’s office, local, county and state Law Enforcement.

¯ Catholic Charities has various programs to support families as a whole along with counseling for day-to-day issues and serious concerns such as domestic violence. Their phone number is 484-9188.

¯ YWCA Transitions is a supportive housing program that provides safe and affordable housing with case management to women and children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Their contact number is 488-2237 ext. 247.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Chautauqua County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault generally holds awareness activities scheduled throughout the month. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 they have had to be limited this year.

If you would like an educational in-service/training regarding domestic violence in the workplace or more information on services, please contact Project Crossroads at 483-7718.

For additional services, you may also contact The Salvation Army Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 252-8748, or Family Service of the Chautauqua Region at 488-1971.

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