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COVID-19 and Intimate Partner Violence

by Ann Kita
Sistercare Executive Director

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all of us. Twenty-four months later, we have had to adapt to a global lockdown and navigate our days based upon the current conditions in response to this unprecedented pandemic. Despite the multiple ways individuals have had to respond, one thing has stayed consistent – intimate partner violence continued and continues to affect homes across the Midlands. Sistercare remained steadfast by keeping our “doors” open for survivors and their children who needed emergency shelter, someone to talk to in creating a safety plan, and a victim advocate supporting them through the judicial process. 

According to the Council of Criminal Justice, based on a systematic review of multiple studies that compared changes in domestic violence incidents before and after jurisdictions imposed pandemic lockdowns, domestic violence incidents increased by 8.1%. The reason for the increase is attributed to those who, prior to the pandemic, would have filed an order of protection, left the abusive home to enter emergency shelters, and/or left the abusive home to attend a counseling session or a support group. 

Sistercare’s data reflects at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, crisis line calls increased by 64%.  In addition, Sistercare saw a 77% increase in placing survivors and their children in emergency shelter.  Under the leadership of longtime Executive Director, Nancy Barton, Sistercare staff never stopped responding. Sistercare continued to serve survivors and their children, and data reflected that the community trusted Sistercare to advocate on behalf of those who needed a voice. 

We all know COVID-19 cannot be ignored, therefore Sistercare decided to “think again.” Across the nation, many domestic violence agencies came together with their state coalitions to brainstorm innovative ways to reach domestic violence survivors.  The CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan funding helped provide Sistercare the resources to continue supportive services by implanting tele-advocacy for survivors who were unable to leave their abusive relationship due to the pandemic.

Many survivors lost their jobs in the pandemic and felt trapped to stay with their abusive partner for financial support. Economic abuse is a significant piece in the Power and Control wheel that keeps a victim a victim.  If you have never seen the Power and Control Wheel, I invite you to google it and take some time to see how an abusive partner can control the person they say they love.  

Sistercare continues to provide comprehensive “wrap around” supportive services with COVID-19 “face-to-face” guidelines and tele-advocacy connections on secured video platforms. Sistercare will continue to “think again” on how we can make a difference in the Midlands by helping everyone understand the dynamics of domestic violence.  Sistercare is dedicated to responding to survivors and enhancing community response with the focus of rural and economic advancement systems change.