Challenges and resources for families with domestic violence in a public health crisis

Victims of domestic violence and their children live with the risk of emotional and physical abuse every day. In the Northwestern District (Franklin/Hampshire Counties and the town of Athol), there have been 23 domestic violence homicides since 1984 and there are over 250 cases identified as high risk, that is cases that are deemed as potentially lethal. Victims are isolated, threatened in front of their children and many face dangerous physical violence and strangulation. When they seek a court order or try to get out of the situation, the danger can actually increase. Many abusers will escalate controlling behaviors when they sense they are losing control.

So, imagine this same scenario and the Covid-19 outbreak. With schools and workplaces closed and families forced to stay at home, the danger has now increased. The very places that were connections and offering some respite for victims are now gone. From an abusers perspective it’s the perfect storm, increasing their ability to isolate and control their partner.

If you or someone you know is in this situation now, there are options:

First and foremost call 911 if you are being threatened or are in danger. Police officers will still respond to calls for help.

Call your local hotline for confidential/24-7 support over the phone. In Franklin County, call the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), Greenfield: 413-772-0806, Orange/Athol: 978-544-9857, toll-free: 888-249-0806 and in Hampshire County call Safe Passage, Northampton: 413-586-5066, toll-free: 888-345-5282; New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), Greenfield: 413-772-0806, Orange/Athol: 978-544-9857, toll-free: 888-249-0806. Staff can help you think about a safety plan that fits your current needs and situation.

If you need a protection court order, you can still get one even though the courts are temporarily closed. Call your local police department or the District Attorney’s Office (Greenfield 413-774-3186 Northampton413-586-9225) for information on accessing a restraining order by phone or for questions on a current order.

Think about your support system and who you can trust. Talk with that person for support and about how they could help if you need to get out quickly

If your children are old enough, talk with them about your concerns and make a plan for where they should go and who to call if things start to escalate and you can’t get to the phone.

You can also call the DA’s office for information on our lock change funds if your abuser has left and you fear they will return

Whatever you do, please know you do not have to deal with this alone. Confidential 24/7 help is available.