Domestic Violence Advocates Continue Their Work During COVID-19

This week’s blog was written by Alison Kaplan, SCY’s Graduate Intern. Alison is studying to get her master’s degrees in social work and public health. She works with the JJC and assists with policy projects within SCY.

Survivors of domestic violence (DV) are strong, resilient people who have experienced traumas that can affect their mind, body and spirit. Leaving or escaping a violent situation is overwhelming, but survivors are not alone. The strength and determination it takes to leave and start anew is extraordinary and needs to be recognized. Domestic Violence Awareness Month began in October of 1981 as a day of unity to bring together advocates and survivors around the country and honor their strength and efforts to end domestic violence.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is a public health epidemic and is more common than people may realize. In the United States, one in four women and one in ten men experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes in the United States.[i] In Illinois, it is estimated that two million women and one million men have experienced DV in their lifetimes.[ii] Numbers are almost certainly higher than what is reported because survivors often do not feel safe to disclose their abuse. It is important to be intersectional when looking at domestic violence, as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia can all make people more vulnerable to different forms of abuse.[iii] DV does not only include physical violence, but can include verbal, emotional, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse.[iv] DV is about power and coercion in order to control another person.

With the onset of COVID-19 in March, domestic violence has been on the rise. The New England Journal of Medicine even called it a “pandemic within a pandemic.” People become vulnerable when confined to their homes due to stay-at-home orders, school occurring at home, people losing their jobs, and a host of other stressors. When stay-at-home orders were in effect, many areas saw hotline calls decrease due to the inability of victims to safely call for help.[v] However, when stay-at-home orders were lifted, contact to DV organizations increased. In Illinois, between May 31st (the day the stay-at-home order was lifted) and July 27th, calls to The Network hotline were up 32% from the same time the previous year.[vi]

Organizations around the country and around Illinois are increasing efforts to help reach those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Illinois Department of Human Services launched a $1.2 million plan to increase statewide service capacity for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors during COVID-19. This expands the Domestic Violence Helpline to more easily and quickly connect survivors with shelter needs.[vii] In April, the city of Chicago announced a partnership with Airbnb, the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline, and The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence to provide a safe place to stay for victims who need to escape a violence situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.[viii] People are being asked to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but both of these initiatives recognize that some people may not be safe at home.

Even during the fear, the uncertainty, and the adjustments, domestic violence organizations are working tirelessly to ensure that people get the help they need and that resources are available to survivors and their families. Providing support for a loved one experiencing domestic violence can be hard, but it is important to be there for someone when they are ready to reach out. Knowing the potential warning signs of domestic violence can be one step towards helping yourself or a loved one. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please remember that you are not alone. You are valued, strong, loved, and important. When you are safely able, please call or text the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-877-863-6338 (TTY 1-877-863-6339) or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224) for help. For a list of domestic violence agencies in Illinois near you, please visit IDHS Domestic Violence Agency List.

[i] Evans, M. L., Author AffiliationsFrom the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Editors, T., J. H. Beigel and Others, & Group, T. R. (2020, October 08). A Pandemic within a Pandemic – Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19: NEJM. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

[ii] Houston-Kolnik, J., Kirkner, A., Guharay, R., & Hiselman, J. (2019). Domestic Violence Trends in Illinois: Victimization Characteristics, Help-Seeking, and Service Utilization. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

[iii] Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2020). The Extent of the Problem – Intersectionality. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

[iv] NEJM

[v] NEJM

[vi] McKinney, M. F. (2020, August 4). Domestic Violence Calls Surge After Stay-At-Home Order Lifts. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

[vii] IDHS. (2020, April 2). Pritzker Administration Expanding Available Services for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Survivors. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

[viii] Mayor’s Press Office. (2020, April 28). City of Chicago Announces Partnership with Airbnb to Provide Accommodations to Victims Fleeing Violence. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from


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