COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacts victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, according to experts
Disclaimer: This article discusses content that may be sensitive to some readers, including domestic violence and sexual assault.
Empower Yolo hosted a virtual walk and run fundraising event from April 3-11. The proceeds benefited the organization, which focuses on supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Director of the UC Davis Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education Sarah Meredith explained via email that domestic violence and sexual assault have continued to occur throughout the pandemic.
“Intimate partner violence and sexual assault has continued to affect our UC Davis community throughout the pandemic,” Meredith said via email. “Survivors continue to face many of the same challenges they faced pre-COVID, along with additional challenges unique to this period of time.”
My Sister’s House is a Sacramento-based organization that supports women and children of Asian and Pacific Islander descent who are impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. Executive Director Nilda Valmores described the organization’s goals.
“All our work is about preventing and intervening in issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking,” Valmores said. “Our whole vision from our board members to our staff, to our volunteers, to our clients—we recognize the importance of trying to end and prevent gender violence from occurring.”
Valmores noted that domestic violence and sexual assault affect people of all backgrounds.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault affect people of all ages, of all education levels, of all religions, of all colors,” Valmores said. “People should get the help that they need. Otherwise, the problems get even bigger.”
Director of clinical programs at Empower Yolo Amy Groven explained via email that the therapy department at Empower Yolo has recently been receiving an influx of clients seeking therapy regarding domestic violence.
“We are not out of the woods yet; most people realize this and are still under immense stress,” Groven said via email. “Wherever there is stress, uncertainty and pressure, there is a risk for violence.”
Celina Alveraz, the associate director at Empower Yolo, explained via email that domestic violence is also about power and control.
“Although stress, uncertainty and pressure are some risk factors or triggers for violence, domestic violence isn’t only caused by stress,” Alveraz said via email. “Domestic violence is about power and control, and as long as we continue to live in a society that oppresses individuals, those who lack power and control will continue to be at a risk for domestic violence.”
Natalia Baltazar, the director of development and community relations at Empower Yolo, explained via email that survivors still need resources and support after escaping from dangerous situations.
“We would like the community to always be mindful of survivors and not forget about them just because it may not seem to be a forefront issue as much anymore,” Baltazar said via email. “Domestic violence is always happening and is always an issue, and we need to always remember to be there for survivors and their families during those difficult times during the pandemic and moving forward.”
Groven noted the increase in uncertainty as a result of the pandemic, which further negatively impacts people experiencing domestic violence.
“Though the state is easing up on restrictions, people are still struggling with the stress of the pandemic and being out of work,” Groven said via email. “Many clients are fearful that they will get a job and a COVID spike will happen and they will be back at square one.”
Meredith emphasized the importance of dismantling oppressive systems as a whole in order to help combat domestic violence.
“Gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence and sexual assault, is sustained in a community where racism, sexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia and other forms of oppression are allowed to exist,” Meredith said via email. “If folks want to end gender-based violence, they need to be thinking about how to dismantle these oppressive systems.”
Valmores offered a word of advice to anyone experiencing a situation of domestic violence or sexual assault.
“Be brave and get the help—find someone who’s professionally trained to deal with the issue,” Valmores said. “These issues are very complex, and it’s hard for others who aren’t trained. There are resources available to assist folks. They should access those resources.”
Valmores left a final note regarding the importance of discussing difficult issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It’s uncomfortable to have these discussions, but it’s important to have these discussions so that people can address the issues and the trauma that have occurred in their lives,” Valmores said.
For those who may be experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault, resources such as Empower Yolo’s crisis line at 530-662-1133, the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or WEAVE’s support line at 916-920-2952 are all available 24/7.
Written by: Jelena Lapuz — firstname.lastname@example.org