The spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States is having a dire effect on all Americans, but victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are uniquely burdened by this crisis.
OVW and our federal partners are in daily communication with service providers and front line advocates to better understand the needs of victims as this situation unfolds.
Advocates are painting a grim picture: victims are trapped with abusers as people obey stay-at-home orders; newly independent survivors risk homelessness as their economic losses mount; service providers struggle to maintain lifelines with their clients in the face of distancing realities; and emergency shelters struggle to adapt their crowded conditions to public health protocols.
At the same time, police departments whose ranks may be sapped by the disease continue to respond to calls for assistance; courts must find new means to hear from victims and issue protection orders; and sexual assault forensic examination programs must ensure that vital forensic nursing services remain available for victims of sexual assault.
Service providers and advocates helping victims at this challenging time are finding new ways to provide remote services in a safe and confidential manner, searching for alternative emergency shelter for victims and their children, working to extend transitional housing services, struggling to reach both child and adult victims of sexual assault, and striving to help victims meet new legal obstacles to maintaining their housing and custody of their children.
At OVW, we have already provided many administrative flexibilities to help support the work of our grantee service providers and front line advocate organizations, and we continue to look for new ways to provide the funding and resources they need.
April 2020 marks the 19th anniversary of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). This year, we strive to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence in a new light.
I have never been more appreciative for these front line service providers, who need support to help victims in your community. The challenges that these advocates face today go well beyond domestic violence and sexual assault, but the risk to victims who are forced to stay home with their abuser deserves attention.
I applaud all of the OVW service organizations and front line advocate grantees who are working tireless to meet the needs of victims during this very challenging time.
At OVW we consider it an honor to support the crucial work you do. Thank you.