Nonprofit Talk: Shutdown creates challenges for domestic violence organizations

Stephanie Nilva is the executive director of Day One, which partners with youth across New York City to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy and leadership development. The nonprofit serves residents up to age 24 across all five boroughs with supportive services and preventative programs related to dating violence. 

How has your organization navigated the pandemic while continuing to carry out your mission?   

We responded to the shutdown by immediately pivoting all operations to remote work. Our first priority was to support clients with scheduled court dates. Our legal services for those facing domestic violence and abuse have continued through support online and by phone. Trials were delayed once we ensured our clients were safe. Our counseling and social services have similarly continued, with our staff reaching out and keeping lines of communication open to existing clients, while conducting new intakes. However, for those currently facing abuse, it is often not easy to safely connect with them and provide resources. 

How have you adapted other elements of your work? 

Our educational, school-based programming, where we work with middle and high school age youth to promote healthy relationships and prevent abuse, has required the most creative adjustments. For example, some of our Relationship Abuse Prevention Program coordinators have taken to Instagram Live to connect with youth in their school communities. Other trainers are conducting workshops for youth, distributing materials, and delivering webinars for professionals. 

How have the needs of the people you serve shifted amid the pandemic?

For people experiencing domestic violence, the shutdown has created a particularly devastating situation, as those who are isolated with an abusive partner are at incredible risk. And the statistics unfortunately show this to be true, with domestic violence reports across New York up 30% in April. 

What is particularly troubling is that we think this is just the tip of the iceberg—many in these situations can’t safely reach out for help until they have more freedom of movement and time away from their partner—and organizations are anticipating a strain on legal and supportive services when things open up.

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