Over the past 8 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the United States. The novel coronavirus has sicken over 7 million people and killed more than 210,000 Americans. In addition, COVID-19 has had a number of other effects, such as on the economy, our school systems — and the level of domestic violence across the country.
According to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, shelter-in-place orders related to the pandemic were expected to cause a rise in domestic violence as victims were trapped in their homes with people who abuse them. Instead, many organizations experienced a drastic drop in calls to their hotlines. Experts knew that the rate of domestic violence had not actually decreased — but that it had become more difficult for victims to safely connect with services. At Blackburn Center, calls to our hotline have remained consistent during this time.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — a time to acknowledge the problem of domestic violence, and to increase understanding of this issue. Domestic violence is shockingly common in the U.S. Each year, more than 10 million women and men are subjected to domestic violence involving physical assault. Millions more face other types of intimate partner violence, including:
Verbal or emotional abuse
Destruction of property
Harm to pets
Here in Pennsylvania, the numbers on domestic violence are grim. Nearly 40% of all women in the state have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. On a single day in 2019, 2,630 adult and child victims received services from domestic violence programs in Pennsylvania, including housing, counseling, legal advocacy and more. On that same day, 755 domestic violence hotline calls were answered in Pennsylvania.
During the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to raise awareness about domestic violence. While we can’t hold events or gather in large numbers, we can take advantage of the fact that many people are online more than ever before. Here are some ideas for what you can do this Domestic Violence Awareness Month:
1. Use Social Media for Good
If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or another platform, October is the perfect month to share information about domestic violence. Perhaps you can help to dispel myths, or share facts about domestic violence (which you can find here) You can also just speak up when you see or hear someone saying something untrue about domestic violence. Get creative — and do what you can to make sure that people know just how big of a problem domestic violence continues to be in our community.
2. Email Your Senators and Ask Them to Support the Reauthorization of VAWA
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is one of the most broadly supported federal laws. Its goal is to end domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking. VAWA expired in February 2019, and it still has not been reauthorized.
There is a lot going on in the United States right now, between the pandemic, the election, and unrest over racial injustice throughout the country. However, VAWA should remain a top priority for all Americans. Through VAWA, organizations like Blackburn Center receive the funding to continue to provide a range of services to victims, survivors, and the community as a whole. Ask your senator to support the reauthorization of VAWA by using this form from the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
3. Decorate Your Windows with Purple Ribbons
Once states began issuing stay-at-home orders in March 2020, people throughout the county started to get creative. Knowing that their neighbors were out taking walks and spending time outdoors whenever possible, many people began to decorate their windows and sidewalks with messages of hope.
You can do the same for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Put purple ribbons in your windows, or chalk a message about domestic violence on your sidewalk. This is a small but important way that you can be part of the solution.
4. Get Involved.
At Blackburn Center, we know that community members often can’t get involved in our work in the same ways that they used to help. Yet there are still ways that you can support us, while remaining safe. You can:
Sign up to volunteer — our training sessions will be conducted virtually.
Share our blog and social media posts to your network
We know that this is an incredibly difficult time. We truly appreciate your support. As always, if you need us, we are here, 24/7 at 1-888-832-2272.