The Community’s Role in Reducing the Impact of Domestic Violence in Times of Emergency

July 24, 2020
Two hands cradle a purple domestic violence awareness ribbon

By Elizabeth Darling, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families

Social distancing and related restrictions are vital steps toward reducing the spread and addressing the COVID-19 public health crisis. Visit disclaimer page Unfortunately, they also prevent victims of domestic violence, from accessing the support and community resources they need to be safe and healthy at home. Many who have depended upon family members, schools, and places of employment for safety are not able to access these supports due to closures and other COVID-related safety measures. For some, these conditions have exacerbated underlying stressors for perpetrators of abuse.

For adults, children and youth, research Visit disclaimer page has shown that the impact of domestic abuse is strongly correlated with diminished psychological and physical health, quality of life as well as educational and economic productivity. As a result, there is an immediate need for human service organizations and community-based programs to assess their capacity to address and prevent domestic violence within their communities; prepare for an increase in help-seeking by survivors following the public health emergency; and assure availability of critical resources and emergency services for those in need.

Our mission at the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), is to support the organizations and communities that work every day to reduce the risk of youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy and domestic violence. Through the Family Violence Prevention and Services (FVPSA) Program, we administer funding that supports emergency shelters and services for survivors and their dependents.

Despite the challenges, there are opportunities to increase positive outcomes for survivors of domestic violence. Whether your program works to uplift runaway and homeless youth, prevent adolescent pregnancy, ensure the safety and well-being of children, provide early childcare or other supportive services, you can play a vital role in recognizing and supporting victims of domestic violence.

As community leaders, consider assessing your program’s readiness to serve in survivor-centered, trauma-informed, culturally responsive ways. Consider adapting your plans under the current public health crisis so victims can receive necessary support and assistance. Preparation to handle domestic violence cases as you become aware of them, will include gathering critical information about the resources and supports available in your community. Partnering with domestic violence service providers can strengthen your organization’s understanding of trauma-informed services. It can also improve your methods of caring for the victims, including children and teens dealing with unprecedented levels of stress when residing in a home where they do not feel safe

When it comes to responding to the needs of survivors, preparedness is a crucial thread that can be woven into the infrastructure of many programs. Having a specific focus on responding to domestic violence as part of your disaster and emergency preparedness plans requires:

  1. advance training;
  2. cultivating partnerships with local domestic violence service providers and state domestic violence coalitions Visit disclaimer page
  3. reviewing your plans at the onset of a disaster or emergency for effective implementation; and
  4. regularly updating resources as new information becomes available.

We believe that these steps can and do make a difference. Thank you for your ongoing support of survivors of domestic violence. You may be the catalyst that provides the hope needed to change and even save a life!

If you know of a victim in need or a family exposed to domestic violence who may want to talk with someone, The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY. Live online chat services are available every day at Visit disclaimer page ; el chat en español está disponible de 12 p.m. a 6 p.m. Hora Central.

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