Willow Domestic Violence Center

There are three categories of crime that law enforcement authorities around the country are watching closely as the coronavirus pandemic wears on: domestic violence, mental health calls, and theft.

Each is thought to be particularly susceptible to the crisis, as stay-home orders have forced partners who have a history of abuse to hunker down in place, heightened anxieties, and cost jobs that could lead some people to desperation.

The coronavirus pandemic is having an effect on the number of calls made to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Hotline staff report that a growing number of callers say abusers are using COVID-19 as a reason to further isolate victims. Locally, calls to Willow Domestic Violence Center have increased, with victims looking for advice for how to adapt their safety plans. The center has ramped up phone counseling services and is working to address a possible increase for shelter services. Advocates for children are also expressing concerns about how physical distancing could impact children who live in abusive homes. 

This hour, our guests discuss how to help victims of all ages. Our guests:

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.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said she “could not be silent” on potential state laws that would mandate the HPV vaccine for children born after 2009 and sex education for all public school students.

Warren said she’s OK with traditional vaccines like those that prevent measles and mumps. But as a mother of a 9-year-old, she said a proposed state law that would require the HPV vaccine is a step too far. 

HPV is a common virus spread through intimate contact that can lead to certain types of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Willow Domestic Violence Center is marking 40 years of serving local families. We're joined by representatives from the Center who discuss Willow's and Monroe County's role in protecting survivors and helping them heal. We also talk about why rates of domestic violence are high -- is it due to greater awareness, better reporting, or a higher prevalence? Our guests share their data.

In studio:

  • Meaghan de Chateauvieux, president and CEO of Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Phyllis Korn, founder of Alternatives for Battered Women, now Willow Domestic Violence Center 
  • Vincent Butler, social worker who worked with Alternatives for Battered Women, and founder of the organization's MEN's Program

What is the definition of rape? The question after a handful of cases where judges showed bias toward young, privileged men accused of raping young women. In one case, the judge decided that a 16-year-old boy accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party would not be tried as an adult because he came from a good family; the judge said that traditional rape is defined, in part, as two or more males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, manhandling a person into a secluded area. The ruling caused backlash and the eventual resignation of the judge.

What are the dangers of powerful people in the criminal justice system misunderstanding rape and sexual assault, and victims' trauma? Our guests discuss that question, and we hear the story of a local woman who has been personally affected by that concern. In studio:

Willow Domestic Violence Center has won a grant -- one of only two in the state -- to establish a fellowship aimed at improving the services it provides for survivors.

The $150,000, two-year grant will cover the salary of a fellow who will be embedded in the Willow organization, looking for any unforeseen gaps in the way programs and services are carried out.