It’s a refrain public officials and medical professionals have repeated tirelessly over the last month: stay home as much as possible to curb the spread of coronavirus. But for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and those in potentially dangerous living situations, that is a risk-laden proposition.
Toni Troop, the director of communications for Jane Doe Inc. — a coalition of domestic violence and sexual assault organizations around Massachusetts — said that the restrictions put on daily life, as a result of the pandemic, further compounds their situation.
“Isolation is not only a tactic that people who cause harm use, but it is, in fact, a major risk factor. We are very concerned that people aren’t able to access their healthcare provider. We’ve heard that some rape victims are not going to the hospital … because they heard the message that they shouldn’t go the hospital unless they’re experiencing COVID symptoms,” Troop told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston, Tuesday.
On Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced the expansion of SafeLink — the state’s 24/7, toll-free, confidential domestic violence hotline to include resources for survivors of sexual assault. Polito also noted that judges are available 24-hours a day to process restraining orders and those in immediate danger should still call 9-1-1.
Troop reiterated that all resources that were available to survivors before the pandemic, are still available during it.
“It was so impressive how quickly programs around the Commonwealth transitioned to being remote. … So people can access them through hotlines, but the chatlines — there were only three of them before this started, but I think now we’re up to eight or nine,” she said.
But Troop also mentioned that the burden of reaching out, should not solely rest on the shoulders of survivors and those currently experiencing violence.
“Survivors are the most resilient and creative people we know. People find very creative ways. Advocates are looking for creative ways to make connection with people,” Troop explained. “But really what we also want to do is shift that responsibility off of the victim… What we need to be looking at is what can friends, family members, coworkers, and others do.”
For a full list of national and local domestic violence and sexual assault resources, visit Jane Doe Inc’s website. To reach the Safe-Link hotline, call 877-785-2020.