By Sandra Nevárez García
Domestic violence is one of the most prevalent and underreported forms of abuse across the globe. The pandemic has affected so many aspects of our daily lives, especially those living in abusive homes.
Early reports from communities hit by the pandemic exposed the harsh reality that the places many of us identify as safe would become a place of abuse. El Paso is no different. It is more important, during the pandemic, that we stay connected to our families, friends and coworkers.
Social distancing is crucial to our collective public health. It is equally important to remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation.
So much has changed since the virus arrived in March. Many in our community struggle financially as their employers have cut staff or even closed. Parents must balance working from home with facilitating remote learning for their children. In the healthiest of family environments, stress and anxiety levels are high. As a community, many of us feel alone.
Please focus on your experience over the past seven months. Recall your feelings of uncertainty, possible lack of control over your environment, financial struggles, feeling isolated and even trapped without the ability to connect with other people.
Our collective experience in 2020 has exposed us to some of the emotional trauma experienced daily by people who are abused by an intimate partner or family member. This has been their reality for months or years prior to 2020 and has been exacerbated by this health crisis.
Isolation is already a commonly used tactic within abusive relationships. This leaves people more isolated and in more danger. They find themselves spending increasingly more time with partners exhibiting abusive behaviors.
Since the onset of the first cases in March, we at the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence transitioned to meet the needs of our community, ensuring our services continued without interruption. Calls to our Crisis Hopeline — 915.593.7300 or 1.800.727.0511 — increased by 41 percent. Every week, our advocates are registering new clients who seek guidance and support through our Family Resource Center. They registered more than 100 new clients in June and July.
Our Emergency Shelter has remained completely operational, seeing a 30 percent increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
Domestic violence crosses all barriers of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and more. This does not mean that it happens to everyone the same way or at the same rate.
Power and control are the root of domestic violence. It is no coincidence that domestic violence increases during times of limited access to resources, which is the experience of many in our community as a result of COVID-19.
When power and control dynamics exist in relationships, violence is nearly inevitable. Domestic violence often becomes a tool for people who want to maintain power and control.
Many of us are unsure of what to say, what to do, and how to help. Stay connected to those you love. Video calls, virtual hangouts or even a socially distant conversation in their front yard all aid in minimizing isolation and keep you connected to them as a resource.
El Paso is a resilient community. We face adversity by coming together to serve and protect the most vulnerable amongst us. El Paso has proven that together we can accomplish great things. “Together” is a simple word. One that we use daily to refer to the most ordinary of circumstances.
Over the course of 2020 the meaning of “together” has taken on a more communal tone, as we collectively experience the pandemic and the way the virus has altered our lives.
Masks, sanitizing and social distancing are now a social norm. This October we ask you to help us foster a new social norm. One for healthy families and relationships.
Begin your advocacy for victims and survivors this Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We ask El Paso to “Go Purple Together” and join us in wearing purple on Oct. 22 for Go Purple Day. Follow us at casfv.org for more virtual events throughout the month.
Send the message to others in our community that they are not alone. Show support for the countless people who experience abuse at the hands of their spouse, intimate partner or family member.
The work to end family violence does not end with you. We need countless people to advocate for those who experience sexual and family violence.
Be a champion for their experiences, rights, and hopes. Start by saying, “I believe you.”
Sandra Nevárez García is a native El Pasoan and is the executive director of the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence. She has worked with CASFV for 16 years.