New York City’s domestic violence resource website, NYC Hope, has seen a notable surge in the number of visits in recent weeks, as the city attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus by enforcing strict stay-at-home measures.
Website visits more than doubled – going from about 45 visits per day to 115 visits per day – from the period of March 18 to April 5, according to data shared with CNN on Tuesday by the mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV).
This uptick of visits to the website comes as New York City has been forced to shutter many of its businesses and organizations to adhere to strict stay-at-home and other measures in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. One of the many results of those rules is that the city’s Family Justice Centers offices, where victims of abuse can physically visit to get assistance, have been temporarily closed since March 18.
The centers have continued to provide help to victims via phone, and the city’s domestic violence shelters and a 24-hour domestic violence hotline are also fully operating, according to ENDGBV.
“Survivors need us now more than ever in these extraordinary times, and our top priority remains to ensure continuity of services and unwavering support,” ENDGBV Commissioner Cecile Noel said in a statement.
“COVID-19 puts into sharp focus the vulnerabilities that many people in our city face every day, especially gender-based violence survivors; and it highlights the barriers and challenges that we know keep people from seeking help and finding safety.”
Survivors of domestic abuse are confronting the uniquely difficult challenges and dangers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts say that abusive environments can grow all the more so under the stresses created by stay-at-home orders and other uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. Victims might find themselves stuck in close quarters with abusive partners, family members or acquaintances, making them more susceptible to abuse and lacking the privacy and space to freely reach out to the outside world for help.
And advocates worry about the phenomenon of underreporting incidents of abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of clients who are just physically can’t reach out for services – people who are isolated in a home or quarantined with their abusive partner,” Kimberlina Kavern, a senior director at the domestic violence organization Safe Horizon, said.
“We know that domestic violence is underreported in normal day-to-day circumstances. So it’s very safe to say that numbers during this time aren’t going to be reflected of the frequency of domestic violence incidents.”
National hotline sees increase in reports of Covid-19-related abuse
Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told CNN that while the volume of calls, chats and texts to the hotline have remained steady in recent weeks through the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an uptick in the number of survivors reaching out with Covid-19-specific concerns.
According to Ray-Jones, 2,345 survivors contacting the hotline between March 16 and April 5 cited Covid-19 as a “condition of their experience.”
“We are seeing an increase in the number of survivors reaching out who concerned with Covid-19 and how their abusive partner is leveraging Covid-19 to further isolate, coerce, or increase fear in the relationship,” Ray-Jones said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has also addressed domestic violence victims in recent days.
During one of Cuomo’s press briefings last week, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa promoted the state’s 1-800 domestic violence hotline. She cited a reported uptick in domestic abuse incidents.
“Women should know that they don’t have to stay in those situations. We will help them relocate. We will help them find safe shelter,” DeRosa said. “It’s unacceptable on any day and I want people to know that in every single case that is reported, the state police is going to investigate fully and bring the full bear of the law behind it.”