Last month, governors across the country began issuing stay-at-home orders to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. This step is necessary, yet it has raised a number of concerns. One of the major worries is how shelter-in-place orders would affect women, children and men who are in abusive situations. What happens when you are trapped at home with the person who has been abusing you?
In response, some people and groups are suggesting ways to help people who may be experiencing domestic violence. These ideas are well-intentioned — but may increase the risk of harm. For example, one suggestion involves placing a sign in your window if you are being abused so that your neighbors can offer you assistance. This may create even more danger for the victim. If they have seen this idea on social media, the person who abuses them may have as well. Posting a sign in the window may actually lead to further violence.
Like the “black dot” campaign of a few years back, these ideas may seem like a good way to allow victims of abuse to seek help. In reality, they can put victims in even more danger, or may be ineffective. Even if a person’s neighbors know what a sign in the window means, they still lack the training or expertise to help in a safe way.
Instead of complicated strategies, there are easier — and less dangerous — ways to help people who may be at risk. First, check in on friends, neighbors and loved ones. A simple call may give them the opportunity to share their concerns. Second, if you are worried about the safety of someone you care about, call our hotline: 1-888-832-2272. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is always free of charge and confidential, and can be anonymous.
Our hotline is not just for people who are suffering from abuse or who are victims or survivors of violence. It is available for everyone — including people who are concerned about loved ones and want to know how to help. Our trained crisis counselors will listen and offer options about what you can do to support your loved one, including how you can safely help a person in your life who may be at risk of violence.
The best option for victims of domestic violence is not drawing a circle on their hand, pretending to order something from a business, or putting a sign in their window. Instead, victims can reach out directly to an organization like Blackburn Center. For more than 40 years, we have worked with victims of domestic violence in Westmoreland County, reaching thousands of people each year. Our expertise in this field allows us to help victims develop safety plans and get the services that they need. We are available 24 hours a day at 1-888-832-2272.
You can support our work in helping victims of domestic violence by raising awareness. Share our hotline number with family and friends, and post it on your social media accounts. You can also print this flyer and post it around your neighborhood. By letting people know that we are still here to help, you are playing an important role in making sure that people who are experiencing abuse get the information that they need.
This is a frightening time for all of us, and especially those who are trapped at home with a person who is abusive to them. We are here to help.
If you are experiencing abuse or are worried about a loved one, call us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 to speak to a trained crisis counselor.