When social distancing presents a danger

Staying home isn’t much of a refuge if you’re literally stuck there with a batterer — but help is still available for those who need it

BRATTLEBORO — As our community and all of humanity adjusts to this pandemic, and to the long haul of closings, precautions, and change yet to come, we each do still have front-row seats to profound and daily shows of courage, generosity, and our collective potential as humans.

Enormous thanks go out to our local health care providers, particularly in the emergency department, and to all essential service providers and grocery stores, whose staff are likewise on the front lines of keeping our community alive and - yes - sane and resilient through this crisis.

Though we wait for science to declare us safe, we have many ways to relieve distance, and staying united is the ultimate wellness plan.

In the weeks ahead, we may all need occasional first aid for our spirits, too, whether it's sharing fears, tears, creative de-stressors, or even (maybe especially) some laughs.

Beyond reaching out to our own dear circles, it's heartening to see so many casting wider nets of solidarity, too, right from home: cheers to all the resourceful folks worldwide who, even without technology, are converting social distancing to some distant socializing - whether giving impromptu balcony concerts or inspiring neighborhood singalongs, one open window at a time.

And yet, reaching out isn't equally possible for all. Nor is everyone safely reached at home.

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Like any community crisis, this pandemic may dramatically compound the personal crises already impacting people's lives, and that's especially true for survivors of domestic violence.

In fact, it's hard to overstate their present dilemma, because staying home isn't much of a refuge if you're literally stuck there with a batterer - who can now use power and control tactics like violence, threats, and manipulation on you 24 hours a day.

While most survivors already live with varying degrees of isolation when still in the relationship, they typically do have at least occasional options for making calls or for going out, whether it's to get support or to strategize how to escape.

But more than ever in the current climate, they need to keep trusting their own instincts on how best to stay safe, as they do skillfully every day.

Survivors are the experts on their own lives, and survival strategies are unique to each situation. Since sooner is not always safer when trying to flee, having outside help with safety planning, plus a range of options, can make a crucial difference.

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To survivors, and to our community at large: please know that all our 24-hour support is still available, even if some of our services happen in alternative ways right now.

Survivors can still get shelter, receive help with protective orders, plus access a wide range of other resources. For those able to find opportunities to safely make a call, our confidential hotline can always be reached at 802-254-6954.

At the Women's Freedom Center, we are also expanding our weekly support group for domestic violence survivors during this difficult time. For the month of April (and beyond if necessary), we will host a new daily virtual support group, Monday through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., either online or by telephone.

This group is free, confidential, and entirely by drop in, for those who have a safe way to connect. You can attend as often as you'd like. It is open to all self-identified women who have experienced domestic violence.

For more information on how you can participate, please call 802-254-6954.

For everyone else, please follow us on Facebook if you're interested in ongoing ways to help out (or if you could just use some feminist inspiration and diversion!). With any luck, we'll have a delayed - but that-much-more-welcome - Women's Film Festival this fall.

Until then, we wish everyone good health and safety navigating these times.

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