- To what extent has domestic violence increased in New York City and State?
- What are the available services, given the unavailability of in-person counseling and support?
- How can services be made accessible to individuals needing support, if they are in close proximity of their abusers?
Public officials and domestic violence experts report “bracing for a spike” in domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis. The combination of stay at home orders for more than 96 percent of Americans, the increased financial and emotional stress, and increases in gun sales produce a “pressure cooker situation” for domestic violence victims as the pandemic continues. Reports indicate increases in calls to hotlines, reports, and arrests. “Advocates worry that with victims stuck in close proximity with abusers, there are many others who are unable to safely reach out for help.” COVID-19 puts into sharp focus the vulnerabilities that many people in our city face every day, especially gender-based violence survivors; and it highlights the barriers and challenges that we know keep people from seeking help and finding safety. It includes ideas and strategies offered by advocates to increase the protection and support of domestic violence survivors.
Increases in Domestic Violence Reports
Reports show increases in domestic violence calls to hotlines, reports, and arrests, including a 27% increase in domestic violence arrests in Portland, Oregon, a 21% increase in Seattle, and a 22% increase in assault and battery reports in Boston,between March 2019 and March 2020. This pattern aligns with research suggesting an association between natural disasters and increased rates of domestic violence. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office reports a potential 15-20% uptick in reports of domestic violence statewide in the past few weeks.
There are indications that the trend in New York will follow the rest of the country as the quarantine continues, as well as concerns that there is simply vast underreporting of violence. Given the close proximity of abusers and their victims, the quarantine makes it particularly difficult for victims to safely seek help.
The NYC HOPE website, which offers online resources to domestic violence victims and survivors, saw a spike of 95 visitors per day to the group’s website from March 18 and 30. During this time the website has also seen 354 "new visitors," an average of 27 per day. For comparison, before the outbreak, the website saw an average of 45 visits per day, and 9 new visitors a day.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline website identifies ways that COVID-19 could impact intimate partner violence survivors :
- Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or medication.
- Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors.
- Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention.
- Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether.
- 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.
- At risk survivors (due to their age or medical attention) may fear appearing in public to seek the resources they need.
Move to remote services and shelters
Family Justice Centers (FJCs) are multicultural, walk-in facilities that bring together professionals from multiple social and legal service agencies to help survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking. This collaborative environment helps survivors to quickly and easily locate desperately needed resources to recover and rebuild their lives.
As of March 17, 2020, the NYC Family Justice Centers buildings are temporarily closed as part of the City's response to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Services and support are available by phone.
- In a widely quoted statement, Commissioner for the Mayor's Office to End Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) Cecile Noel said: “Our Centers continue to provide crucial crisis support and advocacy by connecting survivors to immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, legal consultations, and more. The City is here for survivors during this crisis and beyond.”
- ENDGBV and the Family Justice Centers are connecting survivors to community based organizations and partner agencies for vital services including immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, legal consultations, counseling sessions, case management sessions, and more.
- Although physically closed, survivors can still reach the Centers directly Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the FJC phone lines (Brooklyn: 1-718-250-5113; Bronx: 1-718-508-1220; Manhattan: 1-212-602-2800; Queens: 1-718-575-4545; Staten Island: 1-718-697-4300.)
- Safe Horizon Domestic violence shelters remain open, though many are screening for Covid-19 symptoms.
- For example, iIf a woman seeking help from Safe Horizon is showing symptoms, she is referred for medical treatment and can self-quarantine at one of the organization’s shelters.
- Safe Horizon is practicing physical distancing within shelters, ensuring people are six feet apart and running therapeutic and educational programming virtually when possible
- The Violence Intervention Program continues to operate. Its crisis responders are:
- Available 24/7 through our bilingual Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-664-5880
- Providing crisis counseling and emergency safety planning
- Providing emergency shelter to families and single adults fleeing domestic violence
- Providing emergency resources to survivors and their families, including food and transportation
- Connecting survivors to relief efforts made available through the government, philanthropy and/or other nonprofits
Remote access to orders of protection
New York provides remote access to temporary orders of protection, and has done so since 2018. for remote protection orders by video conferencing. The Remote Access to Temporary Orders of Protection program is available where traveling to or appearing in court poses an undue hardship or creates a risk of harm to the petitioner.
The New York City Family Courts is conducting virtual operations for family offense petitions requesting temporary orders of protection, and has recently expanded virtual operations to keep apace of surging demand. For information about how to file such petitions, motions and stipulations, see the NYC Family Court.
Family Justice Centers can be reached by phone to seek such an order Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the FJC phone lines (Brooklyn: 718-250-5113; Bronx: 718-508-1220; Manhattan: 212-602-2800; Queens: 718-575-4545; and Staten Island: 718-697-4300.).
Steps Forward for Individual Survivors:
Organizations working with survivors of domestic violence have suggestions that may make this uncertain and difficult time feel a little safer.
- National Network to End Domestic Violence, Safety Net Project has developed a digital safety toolkit to enhance the safety of digital communications with survivors.
- Create a Safety Plan - a safety plan is a personalized plan that includes ways to remain safe, whether staying in the relationship, planning to leave, or leaving.
- Reach out for Help - As people are isolated in their homes, individuals may feel isolated from friends and family. Even so, it is important to try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if possible.
- For any victims and survivors who need support, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is there for you, 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
- Practice Self-Care - Covid-19 has created immense difficulties, and these are only worsened for survivors of abuse. Experts encourage individuals to take time to manage their mental and physical health.
Many physical locations where survivors and victims could receive services have temporarily closed, but are continuing to offer support on line by phone or online.
Updates on Domestic Violence Efforts during the Coronavirus: For updates on what services are available, Safe Horizon has a continuously updated list on their website.
- Anyone whose life is in immediate danger should call 911.
- The National Domestic Violence 24-hour hotline is: 1-800-799-7233, or for TTY: 1-800-787-3224.
- The New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-hour hotline is: 1-800-942-6906, or for the deaf or hard of hearing: 711.
- The 24-hour hotline for Safe Horizon, a non-profit serving individuals in New York City is: 1-800-621-4673.
- They also provide an online chat system, if you are unable to call by phone, accessible M-F from 1PM to 6PM. https://www.safehorizon.org/safechat/
- They can talk to victims about their safety, provide information about resources in their community, and connect them to our programs and services.
- Safe Horizon also continues to operate its shelters during this crisis. Safe Horizon is making every effort to provide virtual and telephonic services, and checking its phone services multiple times a day.
- All Domestic Violence Shelters are operating. Please call their Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)
- The Domestic Violence Law Project office is closed. Staff are working remotely. Please call the Intake Line and leave a message. They are checking this number multiple times a day: 718-834-7430 ext. 1101. Or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- For immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, mental health support, and other resources, all NYC Family Justice Centers are providing support by phone. Survivors can reach the city’s Family Justice Centers by phone Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the FJC phone lines (Brooklyn: 718-250-5113; Bronx: 718-508-1220; Manhattan: 212-602-2800; Queens: 718-575-4545; and Staten Island: 718-697-4300.).
- The offices themselves are closed.
- However, staff continues to work remotely and calls are being answered by the FJC Administrative Teams and directed to Safe Horizon staff.
- The 24-hour live-operated bilingual (English/Spanish) hotline for the Violence Intervention Program is: 1-800-664-5580.
- HerJustice is physically closed, but their attorneys and staff continue to meet with clients. They can be reached at 718-562-8181 or 212-695-3800.
- NYLAG Intimate Partner Violence 212-613-5000 Tuesday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
- NMIC Domestic Violence Project: 212-822-8311. They offer FREE, Bilingual services to victims and survivors of intimate partner violence. Services are confidential.
Other Available Resources:
- The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides a directory of available programs by county: NYSCADV.org/find-help/program-directory.html.
- NYC Hope also has a comprehensive list of organizations that may be able to provide services ranging from immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, legal consultations, counseling sessions, case management sessions, and more.
The following are organizations looking at long-term responses to the crisis. They will continue their advocacy efforts to address domestic violence once capacity and operations return to normal.
- National Council for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls
- The National Council is advocating for release of incarcerated women and girls during this crisis
- Her Justice
- Her Justice stands with women living in poverty in New York City by recruiting and mentoring volunteer lawyers to provide free legal help to address individual and systemic legal barriers.
- Safe Horizon
- Safe Horizon is the largest non-profit victim services agency in the United States. Safe Horizon serves more than 250,000 people each year, in fields such as: domestic and intimate partner violence, child physical and sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault, human trafficking, and stalking.
- African American Policy Forum
- The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is an innovative think tank that connects academics, activists and policy-makers to promote efforts to dismantle structural inequality. We utilize new ideas and innovative perspectives to transform public discourse and policy. We promote frameworks and strategies that address a vision of racial justice that embraces the intersections of race, gender, class, and the array of barriers that disempower those who are marginalized in society. AAPF is dedicated to advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally.
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