WORCESTER – The pandemic has made life a lot harder for everyone.
For women who are going through domestic, physical abuse, being trafficked, or sexually exploited, times are much harder. Being in danger during COVID, trying to find shelter, help, and resources becomes even more of a challenge.
“Being home is the scariest place to be right now, especially during this pandemic. Resources during the pandemic were available. YWCA never stopped offering our 24/7 helpline, court support, short-term counseling or shelter. Getting help is more challenging for survivors who are sheltering in place with their abuser to access these services. Being quarantined with their abuser is scary,” said Deborah Hall, Director of Domestic Violence Services at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts.
According to the YWCA, the increase of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse in relationships have surged since the pandemic started. The loss of jobs, the stress of getting sick, or any other stressors are heightened. Since the Black Lives Matter movement, there have been more women of color that are being threatened, and targeted. Sex trafficking and the abuse of prostitutes are more frequent.
“We are seeing more gang rapes, trafficking, and sexual violence among women, young and old. The violence is to an extreme,” said Karen Riley-McNary who is the VP of Outreach and Advocacy Programs for Living in Freedom Together.
Living in Freedom Together [LIFT] is a nonprofit dedicated to helping women survivors of sex trafficking.
These predators are searching for and exploiting women, young girls, and boys. Prosecuting or finding these predators is becoming harder because of the pandemic, and many are hiding.
Riley-McNary said, “These women who are prostitutes or who are being trafficked – they don’t have a choice. Most women who fall into this, are fighting to survive. They were leaving something bad in their home life or most times are in an inmate relationship where their partner pushes them out. Men need to stop buying sexual acts. They are enabling the activity and the exchange of money.”
Riley-McNary expresses hope for the future and various goals they are trying to accomplish. A training curriculum is created and taught by survivors.
“Some of our goals for the future are to have more housing, educate the community, increase the levels of safety, promote health services,” said Riley-McNary.
Hall explains even in these tough times, social media platforms to keep organizations like LIFT connected with survivors are important.
“Enhancing services is a good thing. We learn how to meet survivors that are in trouble through zoom, virtual platforms, and new social media platforms. With a pandemic or not- people can access things. We need to increase our knowledge,” said Hall.
This pandemic has been a learning process for everyone; however, we need to think of others, particularly women, that may be in danger. Educating oneself about what the survivors go through and being mindful of everyone’s story is important. Addressing men and the acts of violence that they are committing against others is key.
If you or someone you think may be a victim of domestic violence contact the YWCA 24-hour helpline at 508-755-9030, or by using a chat line at www.ywcahelp.com. All services are confidential and free of charge.
For immediate assistance, to speak with staff, or to reach direct services personnel – call LIFT at 774-243-6025 or contact Karen Riley-McNary at 978-602-7270 / [email protected].