Staying Safer & Supporting Survivors During COVID-19

Concerns about accessing services should a survivor live with their partner using abuse:

This is tricky. We don’t want to cut off access to services, and we acknowledge the potential risk of a survivor reaching out for help while they’re sharing space with their partner who uses abuse. We will help safety plan if given the opportunity. 

We encourage survivors to establish loose and adaptive safety plans, based on the following questions:

For community members in touch with a survivor, discuss the following with them:

  • Who are my people (Who will I reach out to? Who knows what’s happening? Who can come get me or can I go to should things get out of control?)
  • What do I need to bring if I leave (mindfulness about where to hide a ‘go-bag’, if possible)
  • When will I enact this plan? (will I call my friend or leave if my partner is escalating and I feel unsafe?)
  • We encourage conversation between survivors and their safe person. How would the survivor would like to be helped, if and when they need it. How does the safe person see that happening, and are they willing to do what the survivor wants them to? Discuss whether or not the police are to be called (involving the police can increase danger for survivors & their families; we CANNOT ASSUME this is an option for them).
  • Come together on an agreed upon plan of action. 
  • If possible, we encourage survivors to stay connected with a friend or two on a daily basis, if possible. For example, text OK to them once a day by a certain time. Craft a response plan to enact if friends don’t receive this text.
  • Have a short text to indicate help is needed; HELP or NEED U, even a code word like COLLAGE or MOVIE…something short and concise that lets a friend know to enact their agreed upon response plan. 
  • We always encourage survivors to trust their gut, and respond if something is telling them that they are in danger. That might mean enacting a plan like the one above, or it could mean leaving a room, changing seats or going to the bathroom.

In the house survivors might consider the following:

  • try to be by an exit 
  • try to stay away from weapons in the home
  • be aware as possible as to where the person using abuse is in the home

So, community. Check on your people. We are hearing that advice a lot right now. However, the complexity and need behind that piece of advice takes on new meaning in the context of domestic violence. Do what you can to let survivors know they aren’t alone.

Also, to temper our own crisis and uncertainty:

These lock-downs can lead to what is commonly referred to as a ‘standing-over phase’ in which a person using abuse focuses all their attention on the survivor. The person using abuse can begin to control every element of the survivor’s day. This might mean they can’t use their phone, eat a meal, tend to their children, even use the restroom. This phase commonly precipitates acts of violence ranging from additional emotional or mental abuse, physical abuse, or sexual assault, for example. 

Having said that, survivors often live in these ‘lock-down’ circumstances. People who use abuse often keep survivors isolated and confined. The shelter-in-place way of life is not uncommon for many survivors, but they are usually alone and others don’t understand their limited access to the outside world. We hope this element of shelter-in-place living will help the community to build some empathy around this element common in the lives of survivors. 

Our line is still open 24/7. If it’s safe for you to do so, please reach out to our Support Line at (415)864-4722.

Updated: March 20, 2020

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