By Makenzie Collins
Since 2003, Day One has partnered with youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy, and leadership development.
In 2019, Day One reached a landmark milestone of 100,000 young people supported over the past 15 years. Today, Day One’s impact far exceeds 100,000, as we made all of our services virtually accessible in March 2020. As we commemorate this past year and the significant increase in our outreach, we know there are many more survivors who are unable to seek help with the current stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19.
Right now, it is imperative to have contact with others outside of one’s household who can provide support. Our life-saving services are necessary now more than ever before.
Two Pandemics, COVID-19 & Domestic Violence
COVID-19 has created many overlapping crises, including intimate partner violence. Since the start of the coronavirus, experts feared that stay at home orders would result in a spike in domestic violence. Recent reports show that this fear has become a reality, as domestic violence reports are up 30% in New York compared to last year. The unfortunate reality is that these reports are just the tip of the iceberg. Many incidents go unreported as survivors of domestic violence have been trapped at home with their abusers with no way of safely seeking help or reporting their abuse.
Although the typical narratives surrounding intimate partner violence focus on physical violence between adults within a home, other kinds of intimate partner violence are also on the rise. For 50% of young adults ages 14 to 24, technology-based abuse is increasingly threatening. With the majority of our communication being online due to the coronavirus, this number has unfortunately increased and often goes unnoticed.
What Survivors are Facing
Young survivors of domestic violence are extremely vulnerable right now as they are experiencing a range of safety issues, both new and worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial effects alone are already wide-ranging: lost personal or household income for rent or food, interrupted education and delayed or derailed procedures related to immigration status.
Day One clients have expressed that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have experienced a heightened sense of stress, anxiety, and isolation. They are struggling with the unknown of the pandemic while having little to no physical contact with friends and support systems outside of their homes. In many cases, they reside with their abusive partners and the isolation is heightened by their partners utilizing the quarantine as a way to further control them.
Day One’s Impact
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Day One responded to the shutdown by immediately pivoting all operations to remote work. This shift significantly increased our outreach and overall ability to help more young people at risk compared to last year. Some of these statistics include:
- Legal services Day One provided to domestic violence survivors increased by 17%.
- Therapy and counseling sessions Day One provided to survivors of domestic violence increased by 11%.
- Calls to Day One’s helpline have increased by 70%.
Our virtual services have allowed us to deepen the work we do with youth and increase their impact across all of our programs.
Today, our social workers are providing counseling via video calls and are available by phone, text, and online. Despite challenges faced with court closures, our legal team continues to work with clients remotely who have ongoing cases for orders of protection, custody, visitation, and child support.
Without having funds readily available, those experiencing domestic violence may not be able to leave their abusers. Day One has established guidelines for clients to receive emergency cash assistance during this pandemic, prioritizing 1) safety, 2) the urgency of need, and 3) access to alternate funds. One of our clients, Mary, was laid-off at the start of the pandemic and was forced to flee her home after her ex-abusive partner stalked her on several occasions, and, during the most recent incident of violence, broke into her apartment. Day One was able to provide Mary with the funds she needed to cover her relocation costs and temporary storage fees. Day One has distributed over $35,000 of emergency assistance funds to ensure clients who are in similar situations to Mary are able to feel safe and protected.
In response to New York City schools’ shift to remote learning, Day One’s educators have revised and developed new curricula for youth into online workshops and teaching tools for our core workshops: Healthy Relationships, Consent and Coercion, and Teen Dating Violence. We continue to equip teachers with online materials and lesson plans to deliver content through web-based systems and to supply parents or caregivers with new downloadable resources.
Internally, Day One has augmented our technology to add equipment and systems that allow us to manage our finances, enable staff to communicate effectively “intra-office” and with clients, and deliver webinars to a community in need. We have purchased equipment and technology, and for reconfiguration to equip staff to provide virtual supportive services and emergency services to clients and transition financial functions online.
Domestic violence organizations are anticipating a flood of abuse survivors seeking help in the months to come as restrictions are lifted steadily. We are prepared for this increase and are committed to ensuring those experiencing violence during this pandemic continue to have access to ample lifesaving resources.