A domestic violence hotline (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the dangers facing domestic violence survivors.
Survivors are facing escalating violence, increased isolation, and economic insecurity. And there are new and formidable barriers to finding safety. Tragically, three domestic violence victims in New York City - Vanessa Pierre, Ai Min, and Jessica Mitcham - lost their lives at the hands of abusive partners in recent days.
At this critical time, the programs domestic violence survivors depend on for essential services are more important than ever. We know that the city and state are facing profound budget challenges. As a result, the nonprofits that respond to violence and support survivors are bracing for reductions in city and state funding of the contracts that support these vital services.
I lead one of those nonprofits, Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim services agency. We support thousands of victims of domestic violence every year, and we are deeply concerned about what reductions in public funding would mean for our programs, our staff, and victims of domestic violence, especially when so much is at stake.
When most operations in New York City ground to a halt this spring, Safe Horizon’s domestic violence shelters remained open to ensure survivors and their families had a safe, supportive place in which to heal. Advocates at our 24-hour hotlines continued to respond around the clock to victims of violence and abuse who needed shelter, crisis intervention, or safety planning assistance. Attorneys at our Domestic Violence Law Project expertly navigated virtual court proceedings to obtain orders of protection for New Yorkers at risk of further violence.
In short, Safe Horizon and the entire network of domestic violence service providers in New York City rose to the challenge and helped keep victims and their families safe.
But right now, organizations like Safe Horizon are facing a stark future. Even as access to shelter, legal services, and safety planning is more important than ever, the public funding that supports our work is at risk.
I don’t want to mince words: Nonprofits like Safe Horizon save lives every day. Cuts to our budgets would leave countless victims of domestic violence and other crimes at risk of greater harm.
We urge our elected leaders to protect funding for organizations like Safe Horizon. We cannot afford to lose more lives to domestic violence, especially when we know that safety, security, and access to life-saving resources are possible when we invest in these programs.
Liz Roberts is Interim CEO of Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim’s services agency. Every year Safe Horizon helps 250,000 victims of violence, crime and abuse find safety, support, hope and connection. If you or someone you know is suffering from violence or abuse, call Safe Horizon’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE.