As COVID-19 cases have gone up in Missouri, more and more stay-at-home orders have gone into effect. But these orders, which are an attempt to reduce transmission, could, in some cases, be increasing the risk of domestic and sexual violence.
Matthew Huffman is the Public Affairs Director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and he spoke with KBIA’s Rebecca Smith about how domestic violence programs offering direct services to survivors – things like shelter, counseling, food, and more – are adapting and where people can still turn for help.
Rebecca Smith: So, Matthew, what have you been hearing from your partner organizations throughout the state?
Matthew Huffman: So, we spoke with more than 124 member programs, advocates from all over the state, and here's what I can say, “advocates are tired and advocates are also some of the most creative and resilient people I have ever met.”
Domestic and sexual violence programs are adapting quickly, because they know they provide lifesaving and life-changing services to survivors and their families and their community.
Rebecca Smith: Is the Coalition [MCADSV] worried about a rise in violence due to quarantine and stay- at-home orders? [People being in] isolation potentially with abusive partners?
Matthew Huffman: We know that there's plenty of research to show a relationship between natural disasters and increased rates of interpersonal violence, so domestic and sexual violence.
But I also think is really important for us to recognize, inside of that, is that domestic violence is rooted in power and control.
And so, when an abusive person loses that power and control – things like job loss, like a feeling of helplessness whenever so much is out of our control, right now – we know that these factors don't directly cause domestic or sexual violence, but we also know that these other underlying conditions increase the number and severity of incidents of domestic and sexual violence.
Rebecca Smith: What can the community do to help?
Matthew Huffman: The most important thing for listeners to think about how they can help survivors and domestic and sexual violence programs right now, is to reach out to those local domestic and sexual violence programs and ask them – what they need.
And so, on our website, we have a list of all of our member agencies under the “Need Help?” tab.
Rebecca Smith: And finally, Matthew, how about for individuals experiencing or worried about sexual and domestic violence? What do you want them to know?
Matthew Huffman: The first and most important thing I want them to know is they are not alone right now.
Law enforcement agencies are continuing to respond to calls. Domestic and sexual violence programs are still operating. Hotlines, both the National Domestic Violence Hotline and RAAIN, as well as DeafLEAD, which operates the Missouri Crisis Hotline, those three also offer text chat.
And so, for a lot of people, being able to actually call an advocate over the phone might be really difficult, especially if you're still in a living situation with your abusive partner, and so, text might be easier and safer for you.
So again, I just want to reiterate that those individuals who might be experiencing violence aren't alone, and that there are services and advocates available for you.
If you or anyone you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. For the Deaf Crisis Line videophone call 321-800-3323 or text HAND to 839863.