By Gabriela Mosquera
Being restricted to our individual homes for an indefinite period of time while the state deals with the current COVID-19 pandemic can be boring, frustrating and anxiety-inducing for many of us. As both a legislator and a mother of two, I understand many of the challenges New Jerseyans are facing.
Although the measures being taken are critical to keeping residents safe, unfortunate side effects are impacting the most vulnerable among us. It’s important we keep these populations in mind during these difficult times.
Many victims of domestic violence and child abuse are now trapped in their homes with their abusers during all hours of the day.
With the strain of unemployment, close quarters and more, abusers are more likely than ever to take their fear and frustration out on their victims or use the situation to further manipulate and isolate them. Those vulnerable spouses, children and other relatives aren’t even able to turn to school, work and other social activities for a respite.
That’s why I want anyone reading this to know that there are available resources to help.
One nationwide resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers live chat services 24/7 if anyone is unable to call with their abuser in the house.
There are also a number of New Jersey specific hotlines available to residents.
One of those 24/7 hotlines is 1-800-572-SAFE (7233), which provides statewide support to victims of domestic violence. They do not offer a chat feature. It is recommended that calls be made from a safe place. Depending on the situation, callers may even be referred to a women’s shelter where they can go to escape their abusive situation.
Throughout the state, including my area of South Jersey, there are many tremendous organizations that are ready to provide services to abuse survivors. I would urge anyone seeking these services to call 211.
In addition, telehealth services are being expanded as a result of the virus, which means victims may even be able to receive medical guidance and mental health support remotely. I recommended that those seeking help contact their healthcare provider to see what assistance is available to them.
If a phone call cannot be made, trained Crisis Counselors at www.crisistextline.org can offer free assistance via texting and can help people come up with a plan to stay safe.
Ultimately, anyone in an urgent and dangerous situation can and should still call 911 for police and/or medical help.
Now that many of us are home throughout the day, I encourage everyone to look out for the health and safety of their neighbors. No member of our community should suffer in silence.
If you know or suspect anyone causing harm to a child it can be reported to 1-877-NJ ABUSE (652-2873). You can also call 211 to learn about additional resources available.
Finally, I urge everyone to consider donating to a local shelter or non-profit to help these organizations help survivors get through these trying times.
Every one of us must adapt to this new temporary reality as best we can, which means we all have to work together to make sure no one in our community gets left behind.
This Letter to the Editor was published in The Star Ledger on April 13, 2020: https://www.nj.com/opinion/2020/04/help-for-domestic-violence-victims-during-pandemics-stay-at-home-order-opinion.html