AUSTIN, Texas - Family violence advocates say now more than ever is the time for us to check in on one another. Since the “stay at home” and “shelter in place” orders were mandated to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Texas Advocacy Project and the SAFE Alliance have seen an increase in calls for assistance.
The Texas Advocacy Project serves survivors of domestic violence with civil legal assistance. CEO Heather Bellino said when the Coronavirus pandemic began they saw a 33-percent increase of calls on their legal line.
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“It tells us that the services are needed, that they are viable and that they are a solution for people who are trying to escape abusive homes, “ Bellino said. “We know that right now the home is not the safest place for a lot of people and it's going to take services like legal aid available to them to get them out safely in the long run.”
The TAP has done virtual counseling to reach clients across Texas since 2007. The SAFE Alliance has also moved some of their services online to help survivors of not only domestic but family violence. Kelly White, co-CEO of SAFE, said the organization has had to adjust their operations at the children and adult shelters during the health crisis as well.
“We’ve had to reduce some of our capacity because we have to set-up isolation, we have to do social distancing, we have to have quarantine areas,” White said. “We previously could have put two people together in a room, now we are trying to have them in separate rooms. There’s some really big challenges associated with providing these kinds of services, in particular, the face to face residential services during a time of pandemic.”
Both organizations offer online preventative measures and safety planning methods families can take.
“We are doing a whole lot around prevention right now and intervention in ways to support people and families,” White said. “We are really encouraging people to participate in our Strong Start program so they can participate and learn about healthy parenting.”
Bellino said the group is concerned about the impact the “stay at home” order will have when the pandemic comes to an end.
“I absolutely believe that when this pandemic ends there will be an onslaught of people needing civil legal remedies to get out of their abusive homes. I think things are going to escalate quickly when people are forced to shelter in place with their batterer,” said Bellino.“If you are a survivor and you are at home and you are sheltering in place, please know that there are going to be resources available to you when you decide that it is time to leave.”
if you are in need of assistance or if you are concerned someone close to you may be in need of assistance, you can call 512-267-SAFE or 800-374-HOPE.
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