When Pandemics Collide

The Marjaree Mason Center has a 24/7 hotline for anyone who needs help due to domestic violence. (Courtesy of altanaka/Envato Elements)

Domestic violence has been referred to as being a social pandemic that claims not only women as victims, but men and children as well.  Given the current social conditions of the COVID-19, also a pandemic but unlike domestic violence, it requires sheltering in place to be safe.

Stress caused by the isolation brought on by the health pandemic and stay-at-home orders can increase frustration and give rise to domestic violence. What happens when two pandemics intersect, with one feeding the other?

Across the nation, some cities have noticed an increase of calls to domestic abuse hotlines, while others have not.

According to Leticia Campos, Deputy Director of the Marjaree Mason Center, the number of calls to the domestic violence hotline has been consistent. Campos, who oversees all of the direct client operations, indicated the cases seeking emergency safe housing services are overall more severe.

“We are seeing a severity in physically abusive cases,” she said. “We cannot say whether or not this is directly related to the shelter in place order…it places an additional barrier on victims being able to seek services because of the inability to leave and reach out for help before the abuse escalates.

“The Marjaree Mason Center continues to offer 24/7 services. We continue to be available through our 24-hour confidential hotline, where anyone seeking or inquiring on services for domestic violence can call and speak to an advocate regarding their current situation and will be navigated appropriately.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the center is taking the necessary precautions to keep staff and clients safe. Phone assessments for domestic violence and emergency safe housing services are handled by telephone. Visitors to the main administration building, located at 1600 M Street, communicate by intercom.

“We also continue working collaboratively with our local law enforcement departments,” said Campos. “Currently, we are not holding any groups (meetings) or classes, but many of our case managers are working remotely and continue following up with clients regularly. We also continue offering counseling services via tele-med services.”

“Our legal options class for restraining orders is also among those classes that have been temporarily suspended. However, anyone seeking a restraining order due to domestic violence can contact our hotline and request for a referral to be placed. An advocate will make contact to conduct a one on one appointment via phone to complete the restraining order filing process. To date, we are housing 160 plus adults and children in our Emergency Safe Housing program.”

The Marjaree Mason Center would like anyone experiencing a Domestic Violence situation to know that they are there to help. Advocates are available 24 hours a day and can be reached at 233-HELP (4357). They can inform you of your options, safety plan, and navigate you to the appropriate services and linkages. Everything will remain confidential.

For those who are not able to call, help is available at crt@mmcenter.org, the center’s Crisis Response email address.

Because the most dangerous time for any victim in a domestic violence relationship is when they decide to leave, do not hesitate to call 911 or contact law enforcement if you feel you are in danger.

Other resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522 The hotline is available 24/7 and can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool

Crisis Text Line

Text HOME to 741741. Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis

2-1-1 Fresno County Valley 211

2-1-1 Fresno County is an Information and Referral Helpline that gets people connected with agencies and/or organizations that can help them in their time of need. 2-1-1 Fresno County is a free and confidential service that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year in over 170 languages. Also available at www.valley211.org