Domestic Violence, a Hidden Side Effect of the Pandemic

picture of executive director Kate MarrBy Kate Marr, Executive Director

There is a side effect of the pandemic that is not necessarily in plain sight, except to those who are directly affected by it. Long an issue, a crime, that goes in and out of the spotlight, incidents of Domestic Violence have not been as visible in the news and on social media during the pandemic as the that of (un)employment and housing concerns. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and at CLA SoCal we recognize the courage of survivors who come forward in these very challenging times and we have remained committed to being fully available to help them receive the assistance they need to stabilize and better their lives.

As has been noted in limited reporting since the start of the pandemic last Spring, incidents of domestic violence have become a shadow consequence of the stay at home advisories. The Los Angeles Times states in an article published in August that, “…doctors who peer beneath a patient’s skin with the help of CT or MRI scans are increasingly seeing evidence of physical abuse by those patients’ domestic partners as a consequence of the months of stay-at-home orders, job loss and escalating family stress that the pandemic has wrought.”

Those victimized have increased difficulty reaching out and leaving their homes to receive the assistance they need to make their way out of their situation. Nevertheless, after an initial decrease in domestic violence calls, our Family Law unit has recently seen a rise in the number of courageous survivors who somehow manage to contact us to seek assistance. Our team of Family Law legal advocates and case managers are taking on as many cases as possible, despite the challenges of the pandemic, to serve the growing numbers of individuals and families who want to leave abusive home environments, exacerbated by pandemic, that they can no longer tolerate.

As a legal services program, we have committed to being trauma-informed and trauma-responsive in our interactions with our clients. We recognize that they have endured brutality and acute suffering that affects how they perceive and react. Becoming trauma-informed and trauma-responsive is part of our program’s growing awareness of the various unfolding aspects of the issue of domestic violence that previously were unknown or not recognized. Our greater understanding of how to interact with our clients helps to create an attorney/client relationship that will allow us to better serve them, meeting them exactly where they are with compassion.

At CLA SoCal our Self-Help Center has historically been a critical resource for survivors seeking help. The Self-Help Center provides survivors with the materials they need to file restraining orders and other orders specific to their situation. In 2020 to date, staff have seen 5,314 litigants come through the doors looking for the paperwork needed to move forward protecting themselves from their perpetrators.

CLA SoCal has a long record of serving to help and protect survivors of domestic violence and in these difficult times, living under the circumstances presented by the pandemic, our commitment to assist is stronger than ever. The need right now is great, and we are open and ready to help. Our Hotline number is 800-834-5001. Please keep it at hand and pass it on.