As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life for everyone, those in abusive relationships can find themselves overlooked and without options. While shelter-in-place orders are crucial to stemming the spread of disease, they also mean survivors may be forced to stay in a home shared with their abuser amid increasingly stressful circumstances.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, some ways that COVID-19 uniquely impacts intimate partner violence survivors include:
- Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control survivors or prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
- Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards or threaten to cancel insurance.
- Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.
- An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.
Steps to HOPE case manager Sandra Halford said that the organization has seen the number of non-shelter clients being served decrease by around 50 percent since the pandemic began.
In January of this year, Steps to HOPE served 42 out-of-shelter clients. In April, that number was down to 24.
‘We’re still here’
Halford said the decrease may be because some clients who would ordinarily come to the Steps to HOPE office during the day while their partner was at work are now stuck at home with their partner. Another reason could be that some people in need of help don’t realize that the organization is still operating.
Steps to HOPE is still working full-time to help clients remotely through this difficult time.
Those in need of assistance from Steps to HOPE are urged to call the 24-hour hotline at (828)-894-2340 — unless it is an emergency situation, in which case you should call 911 immediately. If you are unable to speak safely, send a message to Steps to HOPE on Facebook. From there, you can get connected with a case manager, schedule an appointment with a counselor, or learn about other services available through Steps to HOPE.
The shelter is also still fully operating and is not yet at capacity. Executive Director BJ Bayne said that all CDC and health department sanitization recommendations are being followed and guidelines are being reevaluated daily for updates in order to ensure the health and safety of clients and staff.
How can you help?
The shelter is facing some new challenges brought on by the pandemic. Because the process of securing clients their own safe place to live has been slowed down significantly, temporary shelter residents are now staying for a longer term. This means the shelter is in greater need of donations such as:
- Laundry detergent
- Clorox wipes
- Cleaning supplies
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
Steps to HOPE also recently reopened Second Chance Thrift Store, which is a major source of income for the organization. The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bayne said that staff are taking the recommended steps to sanitize the store for the safety of all customers and staff. Customers are strongly encouraged to use the provided hand sanitizer and masks, practice social distancing, and refrain from entering the store if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the store should contact office manager Jessica Cashwell at (828)-894-2340. Donations are being accepted at the Steps to HOPE main office, located at 60 Ward Street.
You can also donate to Steps to HOPE directly online.