Stay-at-home orders, intended to protect the health of the public and prevent further spread of COVID-19, have had unintended consequences of increasing the potential for intimate partner violence.
Officials with StrengthUnited — a chartered center operated through California State University, Northridge’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education to assist those affected by violence, sexual abuse and trauma — have seen a large uptick in the calls to its crisis hotline. In response, the agency has created a series of online talks and presentations to help people during this uncertain time.
“Today, we face an unprecedented health crisis,” said Kim Goldberg-Roth, LMFT, executive director of StrengthUnited. “But there is a second crisis affecting many of our neighbors — domestic violence is on the rise. At Strength United, we have seen a 42 percent increase in calls to our crisis hotline. No one entity can solve this crisis. Only when we come together can we make a difference, and the way our state, county and city have recognized and responded to this crisis speaks volumes about what we can achieve together.”
October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. StrengthUnited used the time to remind the public of the resources and services it offers the community.
Throughout October, hundreds of participants joined more than a dozen virtual talks and activities, including focused discussions on topics like elder abuse and teen dating violence, classes on financial literacy, and wellness activities like Zumba.
The agency offers a 24/7 Support and Resource Line that provides crisis intervention, emotional support, guidance for giving and receiving help, and referrals to community resources when in need. StrengthUnited is also known for its 24 hour SART Team, a team of certified professionals who provide services to individuals of all ages.
According to StrengthUnited, “trained and certified volunteer advocates and counselors provide information and emotional support, answer questions, connect individuals and families to resources, and facilitate the journey through the emotional, medical and legal aftermath of the assault/abuse.”
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That means, more than 10 million men and women are physically abused every year. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many individuals to stay home and has strained family finances, stressors that can lead to violence.
Despite the pandemic, StrengthUnited remains open.
While the COVID-19 crisis continues, the clinic will provide technology for staff and clients to participate in telemedicine; and emergency basic needs, including food, shelter, transportation and pre-paid phones for clients to maintain emergency contacts. Additionally, the agency is distributing tablets computers to assist children in educational mentoring.
StrengthUnited’s Crisis Hotline, run by CSUN student and community volunteers, remains available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline is offering support to individuals experiencing COVID-19-related anxiety, in addition to services for survivors.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by violence or trauma, call (818) 886-0453 in the San Fernando Valley or (661) 253-0258 in the Santa Clarita Valley, or reach out through @strengthunitedcsun on Instagram and @strengthunited on Facebook.