Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by their partner in the United States according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Stay-at-home orders have kept those suffering from domestic violence at home with their abusers.
Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA), a local sexual assault support services provider formerly known as the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, continues to serve survivors while stay-at-home orders remain effective.
STESA normally offers a 24-hour hotline, in-person counseling, self-defense classes and community education programs.
STESA spokeswoman Bianca Orozco said the hotline, at 805-564-3696, is still online.
“In an effort to continue our support all of our services are still available, all just by non-contact method. Our 24-hour hotline is still available for folks if they want to call, learn about resources, have any questions or need to talk to us,” Ms. Orozco said.
STESA advocates will still accompany survivors who want to report crimes in person if they call the hotline. Those in an immediate emergency should call 911.
Ms. Orozco said it may be difficult for those in toxic relationships to call the hotline, especially when so many people are isolating at home. STESA staff can help those who feel trapped develop an emergency plan once they get on the line.
“Every situation is different, specific. We can explore an emergency plan with them individually. Is there another place you can go? Is there someone you can talk to? Whatever it may look like to that person, (we’re) exploring that with them. But again, we are prepared and inviting survivors to still reach out. We’re still here,” Ms. Orozco said.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), a safety plan is a “personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave.”
“Although some of the things that you outline in your safety plan may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that in moments of crisis your brain doesn’t function the same way as when you are calm. When adrenaline is pumping through your veins it can be hard to think clearly or make logical decisions about your safety. Having a safety plan laid out in advance can help you to protect yourself in those stressful moments,” the NDVH website read.
An interactive safety plan guide is available at https://www.loveisrespect.org/for-yourself/safety-planning/interactive-safety-plan.
NDVH has information on safety planning while living with an abusive partner, safety planning with children and safety planning during pregnancy at https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety.
STESA has reported an increase in calls from the Spanish-speaking community since the stay-at-home order became effective.
“They call in to learn about resources and to find out what it is that we’re doing at this time. And it’s understandable just because the English-speaking folks will get their information from social media or they’ll get it on TV or they’ll get it on the radio, or wherever it may be, but there aren’t that many local sources in Spanish that would kind of talk about this same information,” Ms. Orozco said.
STESA’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month program has gone non-contact as well. This year’s theme is Virtually Together to End Sexual Assault. STESA advocates are posting information about online events, group discussions, and Netflix watch parties on social media. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“We’re trying to do a social media presence because the Spanish-speaking community may not have the ability to access information about our services. But if they’re on Facebook, they may get the information on Facebook,” Ms. Orozco said.
“We want to plan events that folks can tune in and still learn about prevention, be educated on it and be aware where we won’t necessarily be meeting groups or leave their home.”
District Attorney Joyce Dudley said that her office contacts victims as soon as they receive information about their case, usually after an arrest. Victims can contact the DA’s Office.
“Our victim advocate staff are well-educated, versed and experienced in helping victims grow from victim to survivor. We understand victims’ long and short-term needs and attempt to help and empower them everywhere along their way; sometimes even years after their case has been adjudicated,” Ms. Dudley said.
She continued that her staff helps to connect victims with counseling and other support services.
“Above all we want to help them restore their sense of safety, power and control,” Ms. Dudley said.
She encouraged those who want to report a crime to call 911.
According to a DA’s Office press release on domestic violence, after law enforcement completes their investigation, the report is sent to the District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit for review.
The prosecutor assigned to the case will review the law enforcement report to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges.
The city of Goleta compiled a list of sexual assault and domestic violence resources at https://www.cityofgoleta.org/city-hall/neighborhood-services-and-public-safety/public-safety/sexual-assault-and-domestic-violence-resources.
For more information about STESA visit https://sbstesa.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/SBSTESA.