How YWCA supports trauma survivors during coronavirus lockdown 

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How YWCA supports trauma survivors during coronavirus lockdown 

Categories: News

YWCA responds to victims of trauma

Clark County residents depend upon YWCA for advocacy when they have been victimized or are suffering from discrimination or neglect. This includes survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse, and others who find themselves on the wrong end of a power struggle. And that will never change. YWCA Clark County stands for justice, racial equity, and respect for our fellow community members.

When the lockdown came, YWCA leadership quickly and decisively adjusted. We delivered our services in new ways. Women, children, families, and those burdened by racial or gender inequity continued to have an aggressive, compassionate advocate in the YWCA.

In homes marked by domestic violence and sexual assault, conditions during the lockdown quickly escalated. Suddenly an abused mom could not leave home for a safe haven. A woman or child suffering from sexual abuse at the hands of a co-sheltering adult feared going to the hospital for treatment. Their abusers, and their fears, often prevented them from seeking help from the legal system.

But YWCA supports trauma survivors during this crisis. Our services remain unchanged. Only the delivery of those services has shifted.

Home: Not so sweet for abuse victims

“COVID-19 has been especially unkind to people trapped at home with their abuser,” said De Stewart, an advocate with YWCA Clark County’s Sexual Assault program. “We know that 94% of sexual abuse victims know their offender. COVID puts many folks, including children and young adults, at risk for intimate partner violence.”

She said young adults are particularly vulnerable to pressure from predators who force them to trade sex for shelter. “YWCA supports trauma survivors, no matter the age,” she said. “But it can be difficult to come forward under the current circumstances.”

Statistics bear her out. In a recent story from National Public Radio, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network said instances of abuse reported by youth 18 and younger had spiked during the lockdown. Two-thirds said their abuser was a family member.

Virus reveals deep racial inequity

People who experience racial discrimination and other marginalized members of the community are suffering disproportionately during the coronavirus pandemic. Consider:

  • Many Native American reservations have depended on casino revenue as a source of much-needed income. Now, they have watched as closed casinos led to crumbling reservation economies.
  • African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans have all experienced higher levels of infection than whites. They have higher levels of unemployment too as a result of the pandemic.
  • These communities have had less access to quality medical care and to testing for the virus.
  • Authorities say the rates of infection and death among these groups may be higher than reported.

YWCA’s range of services addresses the components of racial inequity. For instance, all written materials are available in English and Spanish. Bilingual staff personnel are helping Latina women, children, men and Latinx families meet their emotional, physical, housing, and financial needs.

We establish partnerships with organizations dedicated to serving at-risk African American, Latinx, and tribal families. These ties ensure that YWCA services are available to them without interruption during this difficult time.

YWCA seamlessly maintained domestic violence, sexual assault outreach

YWCA leadership quickly mapped out a strategy for responding to the new isolation conditions. Online staff meetings replaced the weekly office gatherings. Systems were set up to forward calls immediately from people in need to advocates working from home. Safe havens were found to temporarily house survivors.

Advocates are on the job around the clock. They connected with victims and survivors by phone calls, text messages, and secure online channels. The most important outcome of this safety planning: YWCA is helping those in need of its services. No one was turned away without support from a YWCA staffer or trained volunteer.

“We really want to emphasize that our services are still in place, that people can get the help they need when they need it,” said Margo Priebe, a Legal Advocacy Specialist with YWCA’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program.

YWCA delivers help to trauma victims

Pre-COVID, a YWCA advocate always received a phone call from the hospital when a sexual assault survivor arrived for treatment. The advocate immediately went to the hospital. Our advocate arrived on the scene to listen to, comfort, and help survivors explore their options.

“Now fearing the virus, fewer are going to the hospital for forensic exams,” De Stewart said. “We want people to know that hospitals will take every precaution to protect patients from the virus and that SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) is still responding to the hospitals for forensic exams.”

For those that do seek help from the hospital, they are connected by phone with an advocate. Advocates continue to provide victims with safety planning, legal advocacy, and a compassionate ear to listen. YWCA Clark County supports sexual assault survivors regardless of the barriers COVID-19 created. Because that’s what we do.

YWCA lines of support are offering hope

YWCA’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are keeping in touch with kids removed from their homes by the court. They had been checking in regularly by phone and text. But they wanted to do more. So, CASA staff and volunteers organized a series of car parades. Volunteers and staff decorated their vehicles and drove by the homes where children are staying during the lockdown, and shouted encouragement to their beloved kids.

“It’s a brief light in the day,” Kathie Loveall, a program advocate, told KGW TV’s Katherine Cook. “A good morale booster for the kids, the families and for us.” Sheryl Thierry, CASA Program Director, said the parade “brought tears to our eyes.”

Following free and confidential services  are provided by phone for survivors:

  • 24-7 Hotline: This is YWCA’s emergency hotline for those in need of help with domestic violence, sexual assault, and related incidents. Call (360) 695-0501 and you will be connected to an advocate.
  • Domestic Violence walk-in hours: Our offices are closed, but advocates are focused on handling calls from domestic violence victims from 9:00 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. Call (360) 696-0167 and you will be connected to an advocate.
  • Protective Orders: Courts are still issuing POs. Advocates can assist with filling out the forms over the phone. Call (360) 696-0167 and you will be connected to an advocate.

We need donations to meet the demand from survivors for gas money, food, safe shelter, cell phone bills, and more.

Please click here now to help keep our most vulnerable safe during this crisis.

As isolation drags on, more calls for help are coming to YWCA personnel. Priebe said she receives eight to 10 cries for help each day. “People feel so isolated now that we want them to know there’s a hotline and an advocate always available to help safety plan and to be there for them. We will do what it takes to protect them.”