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Resources for domestic violence victims during pandemic

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DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- While people are staying safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, home can be an unsafe place for victims of domestic violence. 

Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the CDC

“I have many friends who have been sexually assaulted or who have been beaten. I myself are a survivor of sexual violence,” Veronica Figueroa Velez said. 

Being a survivor herself, Figueroa Velez understands the dangers and stress living with an abuser, especially during a time where people have lost their jobs and schools have closed. 

“For victims of domestic violence, safer at home does not mean safe,” Figueroa Velez, said. “It means more isolation with an abuser because he or she lost their jobs, or they might be working from home.”

Figueroa Velez runs a state-wide non-profit organization called Unidos, which is focused on providing resources to victims of sexual and physical violence.

One service offered is a 24-hour, 7 days a week help line for English and Spanish speakers. 

There are workers who take your call, assess your situation, and help you in the best way they can. 

Figueroa Velez said they also offer counseling services for people who might need emotional support. 

Victims are unable to go to other people’s homes because of social distancing guidelines, but Unidos is helping to provide temporary housing for those who need it.

“Right now because of this pandemic, we’re working with a number of hotels in the area. This will provide them a safe space and we continue to follow up with them to make sure they need and have the support,” Figueroa Velez said.

There are other local organizations in the Madison area like Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, known as DAIS. 

They also provide a help line, along with support, legal, and children’s programs. 

"Victims will often reach out to help lines during the day when either they're at work or their batterers are at work. So now with everybody being stuck at home and having to navigate being in the household with that person 24/7 it's not surprising that people would not have access to reach out," Executive Director Shannon Barry said.

DAIS runs the only domestic violence shelter in Dane County, providing food, clothing and personal care items for shelter residents. 

Additionally, the shelter helps victims find housing, jobs, and connects them with other community resources.

If you can’t use these resources, Figueroa Velez advises developing a safety plan, like having an escape route or a signal to a neighbor if you're in need of help. 

Visit End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin to find services and resources in your area. For those victims who don’t have the ability to make a phone call, you can text LOVEIS to 22522. 

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Alyssa Hui

WKOW News

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