As stay-at-home orders have increased, those who are affected by domestic violence and relationship abuse are even more at risk. Since this is an issue that disproportionately affects women, we knew we had to take action. At ModCloth, we always strive to support and empower women. This is why we’re donating 10% of all site proceeds to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in their COVID-19 relief efforts.
This essential organization supports survivors, provides hope in times of crisis, and promotes healthy relationships for all. To further understand this issue, we sat down with Gina Kaye, the Strategic and Community Partnerships Manager for The Hotline. Through Gina’s thoughtful responses, we hope to educate our audience on relationship abuse. Above all, we hope this article inspires you to lend your support to this serious issue.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about domestic violence?
Gina: “That it looks a certain way. Truth is, the term ‘domestic violence’ is an umbrella term that encompasses many forms of relationship abuse. Abuse is rooted in power and control. There are numerous ways someone can exert power and control over another person for their own gain. Relationship abuse does not discriminate. It can happen to the rich and to the poor. To the young and to the old. To men and to women. Just because someone doesn’t show signs of physical abuse doesn’t mean they are okay. Abuse is abuse—and it needs to end.”
What services does the National Domestic Violence Hotline provide?
Gina: “The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a large national organization based in Austin, Texas. We offer services and initiatives to support survivors, their friends, and family members. Our core focuses include: crisis and intervention, prevention and education, data and information.
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence from a partner in their lifetime. Despite these numbers, many still don’t understand the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in our communities and our workplaces. The heart of The Hotline is our highly-trained advocate staff. They provide high-quality, trauma-informed education, validation, and connection to services that empower victims and survivors to make life-changing decisions with dignity and respect.
Our organization is on the front lines of supporting survivors of domestic violence. We are the nation’s only 24/7 provider of services via phone, chat, and text. Maintaining our services is critical to the health and safety of survivors across the United States and its territories. We answer the call to support and shift power back to those affected by relationship abuse.”
In light of COVID-19, what has changed for the National Domestic Violence Hotline organization?
Gina: “The Hotline’s entire team, more than 150 people, began working remotely mid-March so that we can continue to provide critical, life-saving services for hundreds of thousands of survivors — no matter what happens. This is the only way we can ensure services in the uncertain time.
The Hotline is also the backup for other hotlines and providers from local, regional and state organizations, who may be forced to suspend services due to COVID-19. Their hotlines would transfer over to our organization. There are already 13 organizations who have forwarded their lines to us.”
Is the Hotline experiencing a spike in calls during COVID-19?
Gina: “At this time, we are not experiencing significant increases in contact volume due to COVID-19, but we wouldn’t expect to just yet. With survivors in such close proximity to their abusers, it can be less safe to reach out for support. The significant spike in contact volume with other natural disasters has historically occurred once life began to return back to normal. As people started returning to work or school and were further apart from their abusers, they had the safety and privacy to reach out for support.
However, there is a spike in calls to police and 911, which means domestic violence is escalating and we are very concerned. More than 3,100 people have reached out since March 16th and the stories we are hearing are heartbreaking. “
How is COVID-19 affecting the calls the Hotline receives?
Gina: “We are hearing from survivors how COVID-19 is already being used by abusive partners to further control and abuse. Abuse is about exerting power and control, and an abuser can use any tool available, including a national health concern such as COVID-19. This includes situations where survivors are forced to stay in the home or in proximity to their abuser. We know that any situation that adds stress, isolation and financial strain can put survivors even more at risk—COVID-19, unfortunately, is making all three a reality of many people. Our advocates are able to provide critical safety planning and resources for instances such as this. Our primary goal is to continue to support survivors while keeping our staff safe.”
How can I support a friend or family member who is experiencing domestic violence?
Gina: “Trust that the person in an abusive relationship is the expert on their relationship. Get curious and be a good listener. Judgement can overtake safety and a survivor needs safe spaces. It is helpful to get educated and learn about domestic violence. The Hotline is a resource for friends and family too. Speaking with an Advocate can provide outside specialized information and guidance to helpers. Survivors need compassion, patience, and support. It is never their fault that they are in an abusive relationship and many simply can’t leave for many reasons. “