Troubling information from the San Diego Police Department recently detailed that domestic and sexual violence is skyrocketing during this quarantine time period. As a rape crisis counselor and public educator for over 12 years, I have seen a glimpse into the pain, shame, growth and healing that so many experience. Abuse in homes is a secretive and damaging reality for far too many children and adults; it causes fear, anxiety, depression, and myriad personal health challenges. Normally, people suffering in homes can find some kind of solace and joy going to school, playing sports, hanging out with friends and seeking other external resources. COVID-19 has now forced countless victims/survivors of violence to spend confined time with abusive family members or partners, inevitably causing further isolation and internalized conflict.
Physical abuse can sometimes be seen even if not verbally discussed, but mental, emotional and sexual violence is harder – though not impossible — to detect. How can we intervene and make a difference to the best of our abilities? We must check in with our friends, family, and community members. Through different forms of communication, we can notice signs of hidden abuse, such as changes in personalities, eye contact, body language, and choices. You may notice someone who is normally smiling and enthusiastic become consistently quiet or withdrawn. Perhaps a friend of yours in a relationship begins to isolate and not spend time with anyone other than their significant other. These are just some examples of extreme changes. If you are aware of someone being hurt at home, please support them and contact someone who can intervene effectively around the safety of individuals in that environment. Possible resources include police officers, other family members, hospitals, community role models, counseling hotlines, etc. If you are not explicitly aware of something, but do notice a change in a person’s affect, please talk to them. Check in. Ask them how they are doing. Engage with them about their life. Actively listen and see if they open up about something deeper. Listen to their words, cries, screams, music, and silence. Be as gentle and compassionate as you can, and be a bridge to help them where they need to go.
One of the best things we can do is educate ourselves on the warning signs of abuse. Also, we have to make time for each other. Check in with your family members and friends. Email, text, call, Zoom, and if possible, see each other from a distance, always adhering to the health professionals’ guidelines on physical social distancing. Sometimes just checking in with someone and asking how their day is going actually changes their day for the better. Whether you know it or not, a small act of kindness and spending time with people goes a long way. It can even save a life.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic or sexual violence, please check out these resources:
LaMesa Police Department
San Diego Police Department
San Diego Domestic Violence Shelters
National Domestic Violence Hotline
San Diego Rape Crisis Centers
Center for Community Solutions | 1-858-272-1767 or 1-888-272-1767
4508 Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
Center for Community Solutions | 1-888-272-1767 or 1-888-385-4657
7339 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite J
La Mesa, CA 91941
Center for Community Solutions – NE | 1-888-272-1767 or 1-888-385-4657
106 S. Grape Street
Escondido CA 92025
Women’s Resource Center | 760-757-3500
1963 Apple Street
Oceanside, CA 92054
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) – Nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization
Survivors Chat – http://www.survivorschat.com/
After Silence – http://www.aftersilence.org/
Wishing you all peace and strength. Stay safe.
Robert Uttaro is currently in his 12th year as a rape crisis counselor and community educator. Inspired by his undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice, he continues to embrace a life-long commitment to activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. Serving as a counselor, Uttaro supports rape survivors and their significant others through myriad emotional, spiritual, and legal issues. He also facilitates workshops that unpack the realities of sexual violence, and offers strategies for support and prevention with a focus on healing. Uttaro has been featured in magazine publications across the country and on international radio broadcasts. Through the grace of God, Uttaro’s work and To the Survivors continues to impact peoples’ minds and hearts globally.
Readers, I want to be 100% honest with you, I’ve not read Robert’s book. He reached out to me asking if I had time to review it and I don’t right now. But in looking at his book and in full knowledge that social distancing here in San Diego and around the United States has led to an unfortunate uptick in domestic violence, I took the opportunity to ask if Robert would write this guest post. So please, by all means, check out To the Survivors.
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