The Work Continues: Centering Survivors in Times of Crisis
May 22, 2020
A Statement from Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO
As we enter into a new month of uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) honors the tireless efforts of advocates and programs across the country, who are working every day to keep the lights on and the doors open to survivors in need.
While the advice around the world continues to be, “stay at home,” we know that home is not a safe place for everyone.
According to estimates from UN Women, globally, 243 million women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner in the last twelve months alone. And data shows that women of color and indigenous women are disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence.
These numbers are likely to increase. Calls for help during an immediate crisis vary, but requests for shelter and assistance usually surge after people can safely leave their homes. While we are still monitoring the trends in the United States, in just three weeks, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported more than 2,000 calls related to COVID-19. Our own WomensLaw.org Email Hotline has reported that COVID-related inquiries tripled between March and April.
Moreover, the pandemic, and the nation’s response to it, has further exposed the already-existing inequities in our culture in healthcare access and outcomes, employment and economic supports, and more. We know that sheltering in place is not a viable option for frontline and essential workers, many of whom are women, particularly women of color, already facing the disproportionate impacts of historical trauma, discrimination, and violence, while now facing increased exposure to the virus. Simultaneously, the historic loss of economic opportunity in this country has been especially acute for women and workers of color, who already hold the majority of low-paid work, suffer from pay inequality, and do not have access to paid sick leave and other health benefits. The pandemic has shone a bright light on these and myriad other racial and gender disparities that have persisted for far too long. As this pandemic continues, we need to be conscious of the disparate impact that it continues to have on women, people of color, and survivors in order to create solutions that explicitly center these communities.
Since my last update, NNEDV has been working around the clock, alongside state and national partners, on several rapid-response initiatives. Here are just a few highlights:
- We worked with The Allstate Foundation to distribute more than $500,000 in emergency small grants to small local, territorial, and tribal domestic violence organizations impacted by COVID-19 and most in need, to help advocates meet new challenges with flexible funding.
- We created a new resource, Tips for Helping a Friend Experiencing Domestic Abuse during COVID-19 (also in Spanish), and launched it during a Facebook Live event moderated by Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Facebook. Watch the recording here: The Impact of COVID-19 with Facebook and NNEDV.
- We developed crucial legal information and resources for survivors trying to navigate the legal system alone during the pandemic, which you can read, along with other resources at WomensLaw.org.
- We launched DocuSAFE, a brand-new evidence collection app for survivors. Survivors can document abuse by logging incidents, such as photos or screenshots of threatening messages and harassing social media posts.
- We joined Refinery29 and The Meteor for a deeply moving #NightOfSolidarity livestream event intended to raise funds as well as awareness about the impact of the pandemic on survivors of domestic violence. Watch the recording here or donate now to support our work.
- Glamour Magazine profiled the work of NNEDV to help us raise much-needed funds to fund all the COVID-related projects I have discussed here.
We also continue to advocate for Congressional action to close serious gaps in funding and policies to keep survivors and their children safe. While the recent CARES Act did include some additional funding for shelter programs and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it included no supplemental funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs and no resources to address sexual assault, both of which are desperately needed to help survivors during this crisis and beyond. The benefits provided by the CARES Act were not available to many immigrants and the bill included no funding for culturally specific services for survivors of color. NNEDV has been fighting for these changes, as well as additional economic and employment supports, in the next funding package considered by Congress.
As this pandemic has shown, if we do not make policy decisions that center and lift up the most vulnerable among us, the inequities and disparities that exist for women, for communities of color, for immigrants, and for all survivors will only grow. We must consciously and intentionally address these deficits and create a system that properly cares for and supports these communities. Join us in urging Congress to address survivors’ needs now.
Through this all, we will continue this work. To learn more, visit our Resources on the Response to the Coronavirus page with up-to-the-minute information for advocates and survivors.
We cannot do this work without your support. Thank you.
For peace and safety,
Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO
If you are experiencing domestic violence, know that help is available. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 via phone (1-800-799-7233) or chat (thehotline.org), or the StrongHearts Native Helpline 7AM to 10PM (CT) via phone at 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483). You can also connect with your local domestic violence state coalition at NNEDV.org/Coalitions, and you can find additional resources at NNEDV.org/GetHelp.