With efforts being made limit the spread of the coronavirus, working from home and social distancing could prove difficult for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Staying home for victims could mean being around an abuser more often, said Jessica Coach, executive director of the Cumbee Center To Assist Abused Persons Inc.
"There are going to be many who will not receive pay during this time which is going to be an additional stress and triggers for domestic violence," Coach said. "Overall having to work from home and be in the same environment with the abuser and in close quarters for long periods of time, that in itself is a huge risk factor."
The Cumbee Center has been dedicated to supporting and empowering victims of domestic and sexual violence and their families by providing services, reducing the tolerance of abuse and advocating for social change.
From Jan. 1 through Feb. 29, the center offered services to 60 victims of domestic violence with 22 of them receiving sheltering services.
The center also assisted 19 new victims of sexual assault.
The spread of the coronavirus has led to changes in the center's regular operations.
Since early March, the Cumbee Center has taken everyday preventative measures handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the spread of the virus.
However, the center announced Monday its physical offices would be closed and workers would be working from home until March 30.
"It was very challenging balancing our responsibility of providing the victim service and our responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the community," Coach said. "The ultimate decision of closing the office was necessary for the protection of our staff, our clients that we serve and for the community and the nation as a whole."
Despite this, Coach wants to reassure victims that the Cumbee Center's services are not going away but are only changing.
The center has suspended all in-person hospital calls but will still provide advocacy over the phone for all hospital calls.
The center's crisis hotline also remains available 24 hours a day at 803-649-0480. The center can also be reached by email at email@example.com.
Sheltering services for victims in immediate danger are still available, only in a different setting, Coach said.
“We’re still here and we want our community and our clients to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time and if they need us to reach out to us," she said.
Coach said anyone who would like to help the nonprofit center operate during the COVID-19 crisis can do so by visiting www.cumbeecenter.org.