Self-isolation can heighten existing or bring on new struggles for families.
In this time of crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and with April being national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, The Retreat, L.I. Against Domestic Violence, and others remain open for anyone in need of assistance.
“Survivors of domestic violence may be experiencing increased isolation and danger caused by confinement during the pandemic,” said The Retreat executive director Loretta Davis. “Survivors often have specific needs around safety, health, and confidentiality. We also realize that people who are already more vulnerable to economic and health insecurity are facing additional challenges during this unprecedented time. The Retreat is ready to help.”
The agency has taken extra steps to ensure clients are supported and access is maintained. The 24-hour hotline is still operational, with access in multiple languages, and counselors are available for phone sessions.
“Advocates are working remotely with clients and the courts,” Davis said. “These times are particularly stressful to survivors because their safety is at risk as they may be isolated with increased control of the abuser. Orders of protection are still being granted by courts and enforced. Our emergency shelter also remains operational, with safety protocols in place.”
Many administrative functions are being done by employees working from home. With life stressful for many right now, The Retreat emphasizes having many different emotions is normal, and there’s always someone to talk to through the organization’s social support services. The main office can be reached at 631-329-4398. Leave a message and someone will return the call shortly. The Retreat can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deaf victim’s protection crisis line is 1-321-800-3323.
“While we can’t change what’s going on in the world, we can make a difference,” Davis said. “For those who have suffered from abuse, the issues do not pause or take a break even during the declared national emergency for COVID-19. In fact, those issues may become more difficult to manage.”
Round Swamp Farm donated food to The Retreat, and Pepperoni’s has also fed clients and staff. The Retreat board member Vivienne Keegan has put her sewing skills to use by making face masks for the shelter residents, staff, and community members in need.
“She made magic from a pile of fabric and elastic bands,” The Retreat said in a statement. “A skill that not all of us have.”
Domestic Violence Hotline
L.I. Against Domestic Violence’s hotline also continues to be a free, confidential resource for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault and their loved ones.
“We are working to ensure that survivors of abuse know that social distancing and isolation does not mean you are alone,” the organization said in a statement. “All of our non-residential programs are operating remotely and our shelter is open. We continue to provide lifesaving services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
L.I. Against Domestic Violence’s 24-hour call center can be reached at 631-666-8833. Residents can still get orders of protection here too, and access to the Safe Harbor Shelter, the first of its kind in Suffolk County, founded in 1983. It provides a safe haven exclusively for victims and their children who are fleeing their homes to escape domestic violence and have limited or no other safe options. Safety planning and any other questions or concerns can also be addressed via the hotline.
“This crisis calls for staying at home as its best defense, and we know that this increases the risk for the women, men, and children that we serve,” L.I. Against Domestic Violence said. “Increased time with the person who inflicts emotional or physical abuse combined with increased isolation is a formula for disaster.”
Domestic violence cases spiked 10 percent in Nassau County since the beginning of the year according to the county’s police department. It has received 2825 reports of domestic violence between January 1 and March 23, up from 2552 during the same period in 2019. County officials said March 24 that it’s due, in part, to personal and financial stresses caused by COVID-19. Sgt. Kelly Lynch, commander of the Suffolk County Police Department’s Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Unit, said she has not seen a marked increase in reports.
The organization said it’s still been receiving many calls from individuals concerned about loved ones.
“We have encouraged them to reach out to their friends and family members, to stay in touch, and let them know they are still there,” a statement read. “During this crisis, while our days are filled with ensuring clients can access safety options, figuring out new technology, and keeping up with the advice of experts in stopping the spread of the virus, we also pause to count our blessings and to think of you and your loved ones.”
L.I. Against Domestic Violence executive director Colleen Merlo shared some stress relief techniques, saying she’s found herself awake in the early hours of the morning because of the weight of the novel coronavirus and the resulting unpredictable future.
“In order for us to get through this current situation, stronger, we need to do that together, so that might be sharing a joke or a recipe online, or calling a friend,” Merlo said. “Limit time watching or reading about COVID-19, schedule worry time, meditate every day, exercise daily, set a schedule, eat healthy foods, and practice gratitude. The stress everyone is feeling is normal, and we will get through this
Alcohol abuse sparked by the pandemic is also a factor in the increased domestic violence cases, according to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Many groups have alerted local Alcoholics Anonymous offices or hotlines of not meeting in regular spaces. Some groups have shared they are utilizing digital platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts, or conducting
“As the global situation related to COVID-19 continues to develop, we are fully committed to continue to serve as a resource center of shared experience to help navigate this unprecedented public health emergency,” the organization said in a letter. “By attending digital meetings, groups can focus on A.A.’s primary purpose: to carry its message of recovery to the alcoholic who still suffers.”
A.A. groups are also creating contact lists, keeping in touch by phone, email, or social media. Many local A.A. central/intergroup offices and areas have added information to their websites about how to change a meeting format from in-person to a digital platform.
New York’s free mental health counseling hotline: 1-844-863-9314
United Way’s 211 Long Island: Dial 211 from any 631 or 516 area code phone number or go to www.211longisland.org
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If you would like to support Retreat families during this challenging time, donate online at www.allagainstabuse.org or text RETREAT to 91999.
Hamptons hand-poured driftwood, lilac, and sea breeze candles are also available for $35. Four women are running the New York City Marathon in November, under Team Retreat, and all proceeds from the candles are going to the charity.