‘Safer-at-home’ may not be possible for domestic violence victims

Advocates want to remind anyone in harm’s way that there is still help available

MIAMI, Fla. – The unknowns with COVID-19 paired with possible economic strain and the potential stress of having children at home while juggling work commitments has local advocates preparing for an uptick in domestic violence calls during the ongoing pandemic.

"We know firsthand that during this type of moment in which victims are being asked to stay home, we are really concerned for their safety," said Ivon Mesa, the Targeted Services Bureau Chief for Miami-Dade Community Action and Human Services Department. "If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is help. We are still helping you." Mesa said her department has not seen a rise in their hotline calls but they are still seeing a steady flow of cases coming in.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is clear. "Stay at home, yes, but stay trapped in violence, no. You don't need to stay trapped.

Rundle wants to remind anyone caught in a dangerous situation that resources are available and she stressed that reaching out for help is the right course of action.

"We know from all the studies that children in an abusive home-setting themselves become indirect victims of domestic violence. I’ve checked with police, with shelters, and I am concerned that people are not reporting abuse they may be experiencing," said Rundle. “We can go and take a virtual statement from a victim, we can connect her to services. I checked with all the shelters this morning and there is room in our shelters in this community.”

Mesa said she is concerned that victims may think that they don't have access to services because of the COVID-19 crisis.

"So, our message is that we remain open. We remain open with the shelters for battered woman. We remain open with the transitional housing programs for battered women and we also remain open at the coordinated victim’s assistance center which is a one-stop center where victims can access a variety of service.”

Mesa also said she wanted to let people know that they are still processing injunctions for protective orders.

"One of the services that we see being needed very much right now are orders for protections or injunctions for protections as they are normally known in the community; we are still processing injunctions for protections," said Mesa.

The Miami Police Department is also still responding to calls for help. "Our detectives are still investigating crimes and arresting domestic abusers. Our victim advocates are still providing services to crime victims," said Miami Police Assistant Chief Armando Aguilar. "It is important that victims of domestic violence know that we are committed to ensuring that 'safer-at-home' applies to everyone. "

Rundle promises that if there is anyone that needs assistance, they will have access to all the services, but, she stressed, victims must report the abuse.

Resources In Miami-Dade and Broward counties

Florida Domestic Violence 24-Hour Crisis Hotline Call: (800) 500-1119

Miami-Dade County Coordinated Victims Assistance Center Call: (305) 285-5900

The Advocate Program with locations throughout Miami-Dade County email: info@advocateprogram.com

Women in Distress of Broward County 24-hour crisis hotline: (954) 761-1133

Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys 24-hour crisis hotline: (305) 743-4440

Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence and Stalking: Call: (305) 547-0140

Miami Non Profit Domestic Violence Shelter. Open 24/7. 24-hour hotline: (305) 693-1170

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."