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Coronavirus crisis can worsen domestic violence, impact shelters

Safe Alliance says call volume for support services has grown since social distancing enforced.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For many, orders to stay at home or social distance have been a major upheaval in lifestyle, but for survivors of domestic violence, these changes could mean life or death.

Karen Parker, president and CEO of Safe Alliance,  says coronavirus and the social distancing policies it has sparked have created unique obstacles for the organization and for survivor families.

"It is more difficult," says Parker. "People are definitely more isolated, and isolated is something you don't want to be when you're in a domestic violence situation."

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According to Parker, call volume to Safe Alliance's domestic violence support line has gone up about 40%.

Parker says, with more people working from home and seeing others less, the situation can become harder to stand, but also harder to leave.

"They are having to deal with being around the perpetrator probably 24/7," Parker said. "Many of them have lost income, they lost their job, or there's a hold on their job. So, they don't have the same resources they've had before, and probably their social networks are not as active as they were before."

For Safe Alliance itself, a higher call volume hasn't been the only consequence.

"Our shelter typically holds 120 people. We're typically full, and the health department asked us to get that number down to 75 for social distancing," says Parker. "Earlier this week, we moved 23 families out of our shelter and into a safe hotel."

Despite the changes, Parker says they are still ready to help. Those needing assistance can call the Greater Charlotte Hope Line at (980) 771-4673.

"We can do safety planning over the phone," Parker said. "You do not have to leave the situation right now if you're not comfortable with that. If you are ready to leave, we do have shelter, and we have other options available."

Avoiding public spaces and working remotely can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but for many survivors, staying home may not be the safest option. We know that any external factors that add stress and financial strain can negatively impact survivors and create circumstances where their safety is further compromised.

For those looking to help, donations are the most effective way to do so, says Parker. Since much of Safe Alliance's funding is restricted, meaning it is tied to specific types of expenses, unrestricted funding would be most helpful in dealing with some of the unplanned costs coronavirus has forced.

If you'd like to help, visit the Safe Alliance website below.

If you experience domestic violence or sexual assault during the COVID-19 pandemic, help is available! Our 24/7 Greater Charlotte Hope Line provides safety planning; advocacy; parenting support; shelter referrals for people in imminent danger; the latest information on court and protective order availability; and more. You are not alone.

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