Everyone has experienced the hardships of Covid-19, but one group that doesn’t see front page headlines is the many victims of domestic violence nationwide.
One in four women and one in nine men experience severe domestic violence, sexual violence, or intimate partner stalking, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ special report on nonfatal domestic violence, 2003-2012.
That number doesn’t include other forms of emotional and psychological abuse faced by many.
As stay at home orders were issued to keep people safe from the pandemic, many became trapped in the homes of their abusive partners.
Victims are often financially entangled with their abuser, and with increased economic pressure due to the pandemic, that power imbalance has only grown worse.
Though people of all identities and backgrounds experience intimate partner violence (IPV), marginalized groups face disproportionate numbers. Economic instability, neighborhood violence, and lack of stable child care and social support can aggravate already tenuous situations (The New England Journal of Medicine).
The economic instability caused by the pandemic has also hit these groups the hardest.
Where victims should be able to seek help, there are other obstacles. When lockdown began, experts prepared for an increase in calls to shelters and support lines, but because so many lost the ability to safely and privately contact help, numbers actually went down. On top of that, shelters and hotels have had to close or reduce their capacity to abide by Covid safety regulations.
Though it can often feel paralyzing to hear about the suffering so many experience without a direct way to help, it’s important to look locally and do what you can to support your community.
Here in Dutchess County, the Grace Smith House provides shelter, counseling, and advocacy for victims of IPV. They serve over 2,500 families each year, and have remained open through the pandemic.
Their education efforts have been influential, with their annual Love Shouldn’t Hurt Conference attended by students from around 10 Dutchess County Schools including Rhinebeck HS. They aim to improve the statistic that one in three teens will experience dating violence, and offer information and support.
If you have the resources, please consider exploring the GSH’s website where they accept support in many forms.
You can donate items or money, “adopt” a family for the holidays, or, in the summer, sponsor a kid for summer camp. If you have clothing you’d like to donate, consider giving to Barn Again Thrift Store or Ben and Gracie’s Thrift Shop at their Poughkeepsie locations, as Grace Smith House residents can shop there for free.
Everyone is welcome to attend Gender Equity Club meetings where we’re always looking for new ways to support and inform our community.
If you have ideas or issues you’d like to discuss, you can reach out to the club presidents, Oona Shain and myself, or our club advisor, Ms. Grande.