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Coronavirus and domestic abuse: Keeping people safe during lockdown

For some folks, stay-at-home isn’t just inconvenient or boring, it’s terrifying. While most crime rates are dropping, domestic abuse rates are rising. This isn’t just a problem in the US. Last week, the United Nations issued an urgent call-to-action for governments to respond to the threat of what they call “domestic terrorism,” which includes child and partner physical and sexual abuse.

The problem is that people who are being abused often live with their abusers, and people around the world are under stay-at-home orders or self-imposed isolation in response to the coronavirus epidemic. People who are being physically abused are stuck inside with their abusers under extremely stressful conditions. As a result, there has been an uptick in livestreamed child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and reports of threats and victimization within people’s homes. A dark reality is that domestic violence always goes up when families spend more time together, like during the holidays, so this isn’t particularly surprising. But it is a terrible side effect of our efforts to curb COVID-19 while keeping people safe.

The good news is that there are people who are trying to help. Rise Now, a US- based civil rights organization, is working to create an awareness campaign called “Survivor Safe Haven.” They have asked essential businesses in large cities such as LA and DC that have stayed open to post flyers that indicate that their storefronts are places where people who need help can go. Employees of these businesses have received training in how to help people who walk in find resources. “Justice continues during quarantine,” Amanda Nyguyen, CEO and founder of Rise Now, tells Mic. Rise Now wants everyone who feels isolated or threatened to know they are not alone and there are resources, she says.

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Students and alumni of Harvard and Cambridge have organized a COVID-19 domestic task force called COVID-19 TFDV. They are trying to make sure that survivors, allies, organizations, and policy makers have access to the resources and data they need in these changing times. They have also set up a data coalition that is helping citizens and organizations alike gather data about what is happening in people’s homes. (There are more ways you can help, here.)

Collecting and analyzing numbers about abuse may seem like an abstract action step, but data is what policies that protect victims are based on. These students are working together across continents to meticulously interweave webs of information that support survivors.

It’s easy to feel alone in these moments, but rest assured there are still boots on the ground. The COVID-19 TFDV database is an excellent resource for anyone who needs resources or wants to stay informed. If you own a business that is open, or you need help and you can get to a storefront, Rise Now’s Survivor Safe Haven is a light in the dark.

If you or someone you love is experiencing sexual abuse, please call the National Sex Abuse Hotline 24/7 at 800.656.HOPE to be connected to local resources and counseling.