The Michigan Conference Board of Justice raises awareness of the increase in domestic violence taking place during the stay-at-home conditions required by COVID-19.
Board of Justice, Michigan Conference
We are aware that domestic violence, always a crisis, has now reached unprecedented levels during Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives” order. Physical, emotional, and financial abuse can increase under the stress of our current situation, and persons find themselves in survival mode.
There are some important questions to ask. What is an appropriate response for church and clergy leaders? What role can clergy and other leaders play in supporting survivors, and what resources might be available even as we all remain at home? Essential services still must be provided. Emergency shelter, helplines, email, and other forms of virtual communication are available.
According to Ann Arbor SafeHouse Executive Director Barbara Niess-May, helpline and shelter services remain fully operational. Staff and directors have worked to ensure the safety of volunteers, staff, shelter residents, and survivors. Important work with assailant accountability and PPOs continues. Advocacy counseling services by phone/web/video conference and other creative ways provide help and support with minimal disruptions.
It is important to be aware and to be diligent about what is going on in your neighborhood, with friends, and family. Find a way to reach out, keeping in mind that abusers often control cell phones and computers. Beth Casady, Marquette Women’s Center Director, predicts that as restrictions lessen, survivors will make the decision that they need to get some help.
The health crisis is a time to reach out even more intentionally to those we believe to be vulnerable. There is much we CAN do. Make sure people who are at risk know they are not alone, that they have our support, and walk them through obtaining resources.
Also, we are encouraged to contact our local Domestic Violence shelter to find out what their needs are. Call first, as some shelters aren’t able to take in-person donations at this time. Shop online and have donations of cleaning products, paper products shipped straight to the shelter. Financial contributions are needed now more than ever.
Learn more from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.org. Also, the Michigan Department of Human Services has resources available by county, 800 799-SAFE (7233).