The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for domestic violence survivors, including intensified insolation and additional barriers to accessing support and resources. This past week, June 1 – June 5, 2020, The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) held its first Week of Action to increase awareness of these challenges, and to ensure that responses to domestic violence, from the local to the federal level, center on survivors.
Amid the pandemic, The National Domestic Violence Hotline has worked diligently to continue operations and provide essential safety planning services for survivors, raise awareness of the increased risk to domestic violence survivors during this time, and enhance public education on their experiences.
“While this is the first entirely-virtual Week of Action that we have hosted, we are grateful to the Congressional staff, supporters, activists and survivors nationwide who engaged with us to understand how COVID-19 is impacting survivors’ experiences,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. “We put the survivor at the center of everything we do. We want them and everyone advocating for them to know how extremely strong and resourceful they are. Policies that are supposed to help them should always transfer power back to survivors, allowing them to reclaim agency and make decisions that are best for them.”
On June 2, The Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones hosted a virtual conversation focused on the federal response to aid survivors during the pandemic. The Hotline received federal dollars through the CARES Act allowing to expand remote capacity in order to assist increased need and support specific resources for deaf and Native survivors. Ray-Jones was joined by Commissioner for the Administration of Children, Youth and Families Elizabeth Darling from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Survivors are facing even greater uncertainty and vulnerability. The Department of Health and Human Services is dedicated to ensuring access to lifesaving services and increasing public awareness about the unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence in this time,” said Commissioner Elizabeth Darling. “We are proud to partner with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to advocate for resources that support survivors and empower communities to effectively address domestic violence and intimate partner violence.”
On June 3, The Hotline also organized a webinar “COVID-19 and Beyond: Intersectionality and the Future of Policymaking and Advocacy” to raise awareness on how necessary it is to use a prism of intersectionality in the policymaking process to better address the needs of marginalized communities. The webinar featured community experts in conversation.
Full recordings of these webinars will be published soon and are available upon request.
“Survivors of violence from underserved and marginalized communities have been left particularly vulnerable and the multiple barriers they face have gotten harder to surmount because of the pandemic,” said Ray-Jones. “Effective policymaking and advocacy must seek to address and rectify harm brought onto marginalized communities, during the recovery from the pandemic and beyond.”
This year’s Week of Action also coincided with the release of The Hotline’s annual Impact Report, detailing The Hotline’s work in 2019, including call, chat and text volume, most commonly used resources and referrals, and an overview of the circumstances facing those who contacted The Hotline. The full report can be read here.
In addition to the two virtual events, The Hotline organized a Twitter storm to drive up awareness of domestic violence and the needs of survivors online and conducted online advocacy aimed at securing Senate passage of the HEROES Act.
The HEROES Act, which passed the House of Representatives, and is now before the Senate, builds upon earlier emergency funding in the CARES Act and includes critical provisions in support of survivors of sexual and domestic violence as well as the programs that serve them.
In the CARES Act, The Hotline received $2 million to ensure critical, ongoing services to survivors that reach out for support, resources, and safety planning during this time of heightened risk due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The CARES Act funding also included an allocation for StrongHearts Native Helpline. In addition to this, The Hotline will also be supporting the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS) through its CARES Act allocation.
If you have any questions about The Hotline’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic, or about the Week of Action specifically, please contact the media team at [email protected] or (202) 713-5503.