(WTNH) – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There’s a correlation between the jump in domestic violence and the challenges of COVID-19.
All in this together has been the COVID-19 response from the beginning. Now, the concept of neighbors helping neighbors is helping to ensure survivors’ safety.
The perfect storm: isolation, families in lockdown, together, side-by-side, cutting off a potential means of escaping an abusive partner.
“We understood early on that it would be a pandemic within a pandemic because of research that had been done before,” said Mary Jane Foster, president and CEO of Interval House, the state’s largest domestic violence agency housed in Hartford. “Post 9/11, the great recession. What we didn’t expect were the sheer numbers, the calls that we got.”
Since the pandemic began, there has been a 33 percent increase in victims reaching out for help.
“It is something that I thought about every night before I went to sleep is ‘how do we keep people safe enough,’” Foster said.
Foster, like many people, didn’t know much about COVID. Some of the callers were afraid to leave abusive relationships for fear of being less safe elsewhere. Interval House was operating its safe house at 143 percent capacity while spending more than $125,000 on unbudgeted hotel bed nights, meals, and transportation.
Thanks to the statewide coalition against domestic violence, the Interval House received CARES Act money and the Payroll Protection Plan.
Bank of America stepped up by awarding the Interval House funding from their “Neighborhood Builders” program, which amounted to a $200,000 grant.
“It aligns with our company and what we try and do for our own employees, not only taking care of their physical wellbeing but their mental and emotional wellbeing. So, I think that’s why we’re so progressive on this particular issue,” said Joe Gianni, President of Bank of America, Greater Hartford.
“We never budgeted for 42,000 meals, and ultimately, the total cost was $500,000. We could not have done it without the generosity of folks like Bank of America and other banks and supporters,” Foster said.
If there has been a silver lining, Foster said it is a rise in awareness about this issue.
“We cannot prevent it if we cannot raise the awareness. We can’t shine a light on it and have people understand that it happens everywhere. It can happen to you. It can happen to someone you know or love,” Foster said.
Foster welcomes all donations, like a gentleman she said who sends $20 to Interval House every week. She said it means so much to everyone to have that support.