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Where to turn for help against domestic violence in the age of COVID-19

TAMPA, Fla. — Lockdowns and social distancing can be vital for limiting the spread of COVID-19, but they can prove deadly for domestic violence victims, who can find themselves trapped with their abusers, afraid to call for help. So, where can you turn for help?

Lariana Forsythe, president and CEO of CASA, Pinellas County’s domestic violence center, says her staff has adjusted their focus regarding outreach services for victims.

“Our calls for shelter are down, but that doesn’t mean people don’t need services right now. So we’re experiencing a huge volume of calls for other services that we offer,” she said.

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Programs like emergency services, which helps victims get access to lawyers who will help them go through the court system to get injunctions to protect them against their abuser.

Mindy Murphy, president of Hillsborough County’s domestic violence center The Spring of Tampa Bay, says her staff has also adjusted how they’re helping victims right now.

“Outreach has kind of been put on steroids. We have Zoom that we can do if it’s safe for a survivor. We do more over the phone. We do phone conferences. We’re hosting groups, both closed groups and specific groups for survivors,” Murphy said. “We’re just focused on asking the survivor what is safe for her.”

Murphy also says Hillsborough County is taking advantage of money that’s available to help victims.

“We have more resources now than we’ve ever had to create safe and stable housing for survivors because there is all this special ‘Cares Act’ money available to get people re-housed,” she said.

Help is also available for survivors who aren’t quite ready to leave their situation. It can take years for a survivor to finally be ready to make a move to leave.

Lariana Forsythe says if you need help, regardless of your situation, it is available.

“Call the advocates. Talk it through. Create a safety plan that is best for you and your family in this point in time so you can be as safe as possible and then reevaluate your situation as the dynamics change.”

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