Amid social distancing and self isolation to beat COVID-19, the idea of staying home can terrify those experiencing domestic violence.
Like many domestic violence organizations, New Hope for Women is moving to 100% online and over-the-phone support, said Director Rebekah Paredes. NHFW is working tirelessly to continue its swift, helpful response to victims.
“We primarily work with folks over the phone and we are still here to assist them (so) the main tenets of the work we do have not changed,” said Paredes. “Our primary goal and mission now is to let the public know that we are here for them, that we are here … We will be as creative as we possibly can to be able to help victims get through this unique circumstance that they're facing.”
While NHFW continues to operate around the clock, concerns about domestic violence have changed with increased isolation. “Domestic violence already lives in isolation. It's not always abundantly clear and when we have circumstances … where folks are being asked to shelter in place and stay home, people are worried about that increase in isolation.”
Paredes said the good news is NHFW’s call volume has stayed fairly steady as stricter directives like the stay home order are put into place. Victims are still reaching out. Boothbay Harbor Police Chief Bob Hasch and Boothbay Region Community Resource Council addiction outreach specialist Holly Stover also said calls concerning domestic violence have been about the same.
Said Stover, “However, the increase in isolation and separation from others just lends itself to be an increased risk for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and for those with addiction issues. This is a time of great anxiety for everyone.”
Abusers exert control over their victims with social and physical isolation as a rule, Stover said. This cuts victims off from family, friends and the community. “We want to encourage people to continue reaching out even when they feel isolated and alone. You’re not alone.”
Paredes said the first tool to finding relief is likely the NHFW hotline number. “We work with victims over the phone and problem solve with them on what their needs are … safety planning, completing protection from abuse order documentation, consulting with our lawyer, identifying resources they might have available such as family that might be concerned about them and could help them.”
Before searching for information or visiting sites like NHFW, take precautions so your abuser cannot later view your web browser’s history. Under normal circumstances, using a public library or a friend’s device is best; however, the use of private modes on your personal computer or device’s browser will hide almost all traces of your activity, short of programs that seek out hidden data. Google Chrome, FireFox, Safari and Internet Explorer – each have their own versions of private modes: Incognito, Private Browsing, Private Window and InPrivate Browsing, respectfully.
Private browsers are not foolproof; when you are ready and safe, the New Hope for Women website is a good place to start.
Helpful numbers include New Hope for Women, 1-800-522-3304; National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233; DHHS Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-452-1999; Maine Crisis Hotline, 1-888-568-1112. If you are not sure who to call, start with Maine’s 211 hotline, which can direct you to the most helpful resource.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.