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Social distancing poses domestic violence risks, says Willow Center president

Brenda Cohen



Calls to Willow’s domestic violence hotline spiked on Friday and again on Monday. Over 40 calls came in Monday. That’s more than double the usual rate.

Meaghan de Chateauvieux with Willow Domestic Violence Center says she believes there is a strong correlation between those calls and concerns of having to stay home. 

She says her team is working to adjust to new demands to help survivors of domestic abuse amid concerns of a pandemic.

“They’re calling us and looking for that support to see how we can help them adapt their safety plan and how we can help them stay out of danger when they’re literally on the couch next to their abuser and we’re looking at a couple of weeks of social distancing,” says de Chataeuvieux.

With social distancing comes social isolation. For those in abusive relationships, de Chateauvieux says that can put survivors at higher risk.

She says the situation drastically changes the way the center is providing services. Counseling sessions are being done by phone and though courts are closed, de Chateauvieux says that people can still access family court and receive emergency orders of protection. 

Sergeant Matthew Battone says that the Monroe County Sheriff’s department continues to respond to 911 calls regarding domestic violence as usual. 

However the sheriff’s office has a new policy in place if someone at the scene is exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus, in which case officers would be dispatched with protective gear.

De Chateauvieux says she and others in her field are preparing to address what they anticipate will be a heightened demand for shelter services.


  “We are ramping up our efforts to provide the phone counseling, the orders of protections," she says. "And then working with the county and other service providers to figure out what our plan is for what we anticipate to be an increased demand for shelter services.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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