By Barbara Victoria Niveyro
June 9, 2020
The number of cases of domestic violence has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly among underserved communities. We recently talked with Kimberlina Kavern, Senior Director of the Crime Victim Assistance Program at Safe Horizon.
If you are a victim of domestic violence call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911. You can watch Safe Horizon’s videos at nyxt.nyc/safehorizon.
“We know that rates of domestic violence have gone up across the state. Many victims are now isolated in their homes with their abusive partner and aren’t able to access their normal support systems.” – Senior Director, Crime Victim Assistance Program at Safe Horizon
Can you share Safe Horizon’s story with us? How did the organization start?
Safe Horizon was founded in 1978 as the Victim Services Agency. It was created in response to a project by the Vera Institute of Justice to provide support to victims who had been intimidated or who felt too threatened to testify in court. Our first programs that year were Project SAFE, our Crime Victims Hotline, complaint rooms in Brooklyn and Bronx Courts to offer help and advocacy for orders of protection, reception centers in criminal and family courts, and children’s centers in courts.
How did you get involved with the organization?
I’ve been with the organization for 13 years, starting as a case manager in our police programs. I’ve spent the last 11 years in a number of supervisory roles within our criminal justice programs.
How is the current pandemic affecting women and families in terms of domestic violence?
We know that rates of domestic violence have gone up across the state. Many victims are now isolated in their homes with their abusive partner and aren’t able to access their normal support systems. And although services are still available, they may be more challenging for people to access.
How have you adapted your services because of the coronavirus?
All of our programs are still providing the same services, although most are remote. Our Hotlines are still available 24 hours a day, our Streetwork Program continues to provide in-person services at our drop-in center, the Child Advocacy Center staff are providing in-person essential services, and shelter space is still available with social distancing protocols in place. We are offering counseling to survivors via video-conferencing, and our court, police, and community programs are providing all of our normal services remotely.
Do we see progress on how many families are suffering from domestic violence?
We know that domestic violence can happen to anyone of any gender, age, race, or socio-economic status. While we’ve made progress in the last 40 years in the services provided and accessibility of these services, we know that many still suffer in silence, domestic violence is wildly under-reported, and we still live in a culture that often blames the victim, and that we have far to go in really prioritizing the safety of victims of intimate partner violence.
What are some basic tips that we should all keep in mind to help a person that is suffering domestic violence?
If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, let them know that they don’t need to manage the situation alone. We are here to help. Our SafeChat feature on our website is available if you are not able or safe to talk on the phone. We are here to listen and to help come up with a safety plan that is right for you. Our services are free and confidential.