When the stay-at-home order was issued for Los Angeles, most just stocked up on food and household essentials, cleared off their desk and began working.
But domestic violence survivors have been put in greater danger from these orders, feeling trapped with their abuser with feelings of hopelessness of a brighter future.
“If someone is living currently with their batterer, they’re at higher risk because the options for them to escape are much more limited now,” said John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern.
“One of the things batterers do is they isolate their victims, so this is kind of the perfect storm for women and victims who are normally isolated. This makes them even more isolated.”
While Los Angeles is working under stay-at-home orders, domestic violence shelters are having to change the way they deliver help and services to the people who need them.
“Everything we do has to be adjusted at this point,” said Barbara Kappos, executive director for the East Los Angeles Women’s Shelter. “From what we hear, domestic violence is on the rise, so in regard to DV, they can call our 24-hour hotline or connect with us online and we can give victims some direction.”
Yvette Lozano, Peace Over Violence’s chief program and operations officer, said the pandemic could increase violence in a home, especially if it is present.
“The violence could increase due to the extreme added pressure of someone losing a job or not having a job and being restricted on doing certain things,” she said.
Lozano’s organization had to stop doing in-person services, like speaking with survivors in hospitals or in their homes, but it still has resources for victims to stay safe.
“If a victim needs to call us, they can get a hold of us through our 24-hour hotline,” she said. “If they need support services such as case management, they can do that through the telephone, and we continue to provide the advocacy on their behalf. The services are still functioning; they’re just modified now through telecommunications.”
While Peace Over Violence has transitioned to providing services virtually, other organizations like the Downtown Women’s Shelter are still offering in-house services.
“Our staff, therapists and case managers are, calling people and if it’s safe enough, we’re still meeting on site with a six-point distance,” said Amy Turk of Downtown Women’s Shelter.
“At 9 a.m. we’re doing drop-in services in our parking lot, and any woman who needs support can come then and they are indicating if they need a phone call or would like to come in later for connection to services.”
The Downtown Women’s Center is different from other domestic violence shelters in that it is an open-address shelter. Turk said normally the only way shelters provide their address is to a victim who has called a hotline requiring assistance.
“We are not a traditional domestic violence service, so if someone needs a more specific, undisclosed shelter, we can direct them to hotlines to call,” Turk said.
Lozano said while Peace Over Violence hasn’t noticed an increase in domestic violence calls at this time, she would be worried if she noticed a decline in calls to their agency or any agency at all.
“I would be worried when our calls start declining and we stop getting calls. That would be my biggest stresser,” she said. “I would be concerned that victims are not being allowed or unable to get support services from an agency to help them.”
The Downtown Women’s Center, as well as other domestic violence shelters, started finding quicker ways for victims to get help. Turk said they have been doing more on social media, and shelters have been encouraging those who need help to text the center or message them on Instagram or Facebook, allowing help to come quickly and discretely.
“It feels very grim right now because the news is so negative,” Maceri said. “But there are still going to be victims of domestic violence through the pandemic and after. Organizations on the front lines need to be able to sustain this work, because as devastating as the virus is going to be, it is not going to solve or end domestic violence.”
Each of these organizations has its own hotlines and crisis centers for different neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Their information is listed below:
The People Concern: Sojourn Domestic Violence Services:
2116 Arlington Avenue, Suite 100
Peace Over Violence
1015 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 200
Downtown Women’s Center
442 S. San Pedro Street
East Los Angeles Women’s Shelter
1431 S. Atlantic Blvd.