Staying Home When Home Isn't Safe: Domestic Violence During A Pandemic | New Hampshire Public Radio

Staying Home When Home Isn't Safe: Domestic Violence During A Pandemic

Apr 8, 2020

Home in Concord
Credit Cori Princell; NHPR

Stay-at-home orders and quarantine measures may have life-threatening consequences for those experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence, and also present challenges for law enforcement and support organizations. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 866-644-3574.

Air date: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 from 10-11 a.m.

GUESTS:

Transcript

This is a machine generated transcript, and there may be errors.

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy and this is the Exchange.

Laura Knoy:
A rise in domestic abuse is being reported around the world in connection with the global coronavirus shutdown this past weekend, the Secretary-General of the United Nations cited what he called a horrifying surge in these cases, and he urged governments to make domestic violence prevention a key part of their national response to covered 19 here in New Hampshire. Advocates want victims to know they still have choices, even though it's admittedly harder to connect, find support and a safe place. Toward that end, Governor Sununu recently announced 600000 additional dollars devoted to the state's crisis centers. This hour on the exchange, countering domestic abuse, how the work continues even in the midst of a pandemic. Let's hear from you listeners. Are you concerned about someone in your life during this time who might be facing abuse? What would be helpful for you to know?

Laura Knoy:
Our guests are Lyn Schollett, Executive Director of the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Also Scott Hampton, director of Ending the Violence, which offers educational classes to offenders. Applied research programs, training and expert witness testimony. And also with us, Jennifer Pierson, executive director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, which provides shelter and advocacy to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. And before we begin, listeners, if you or someone you know needs help, you can call New Hampshire's 24 hour domestic violence hotline at 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. Someone will be there to answer your questions or connect you with resources. Any resources that we mentioned or phone numbers that we give out will also be at our Web site nhpr dot org slash exchange. So, Jennifer, to you first, please. When normal life as we knew it began to get smaller and smaller, closing schools, businesses, restaurants, no travel, no social distancing, no social gatherings and on and on. What was the first thing that you thought about as someone who focuses on domestic violence? And Jennifer, go ahead.

Jennifer Pierson:
So, yes. So when the COVID started, is that what you're asking me?

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. When this whole thing started happening a couple weeks ago. What did you think? What were you anticipating?

Jennifer Pierson:
My instant thought was the isolation and victims being in the home with therapy. Third, I think all of us as advocates statewide are our thoughts immediately went to that place. And how is this going to impact the victim? How is this going to look for them being able to access services and their safety all around?

Laura Knoy:
Similar to a lot of the issues we talked about an hour earlier hour with kids. How about you, Lyn? What came to your mind as soon as you started seeing these orders coming down?

Lyn Schollett:
Hi. Good morning, Laura. Thanks for having me. Sure. And my mind is that this is such an important time for us to be talking about domestic violence, as you indicated in your opening, what we know in times of natural disasters in this country, such as after Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and even from the Corona virus in countries where it hit ahead of the United States, rates of domestic violence do increase. And I think what is important for folks to know is that these natural disasters in this pandemic don't cause domestic violence, but they do create a set of circumstances in which violence is more likely to happen. Someone who hasn't been violent in the past isn't likely to suddenly become violent. However, as Jennifer alluded to, abusers will take advantage of stressful situations to gain more control over victims. And I think what's most unusual and most ironic in this situation is the necessary response to the pandemic that is staying home is an action that will actually clear it, create more risk for domestic violence victims.

Laura Knoy:
Well, it's probably an obvious question, but I'd love for you to just describe how that does create more risk. Just kind of walk us through that if you could, please.

Lyn Schollett:
Absolutely. So isolation is one of the most frequent tools used by abusers. And I'm gonna guess Scott is going to be talking about that a little bit later. And unfortunately, now when we are asked to stay at home, that isolation becomes even more extreme and it's exacerbated by other stressors, such as financial stressors. So perhaps the breadwinner in the home has lost their job. And now there are financial concerns. Most domestic violence relationships already involve financial abuse. So now a victim who's being abused is being asked to stay at home with none of the usual reprieves. For example, going to school or going to work where someone might be able to say help is available, someone can listen to you and help you identify resources. So we have this this this perfect storm in a home where the stressors become so much more significant. And what we're hearing from victims is that they may have less opportunity to reach out for help. It may not be safe to pick up the phone. And I'd love to have an opportunity to talk about some of the things crisis centers are doing to make services available when victims aren't able to pick up a phone.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, absolutely. That's a big theme, how people connect and get the help they need when everything is different and so much has migrated online. But Scott, I want to bring you in to part of your work is with offenders. I'm interested to hear your perspective on the idea that with everything shut down, perpetrators have been provided an easier opportunity to be abusive and get away with it. So what are your thoughts on that, Scott?

Scott Hampton:
Well, when I think about their work with abuser's, I always start off with questions. Why do they abuse? And I think it's helpful to understand that we be tossed around this phrase. It's about power and control. We don't always sort of spell that out. What it means is that it's some someone abuses their power in an attempt to control someone else. The reason they do that is because they're feeling out of control in their own lives. And there are two ways that people can deal with being out of control. One is we can take responsibility and figure out what do I need to do to make my life better. The other approach, which is what abusers adopt, is rather than taking responsibility. I'm looking for someone to blame. I'm looking for someone or something to reject my problems on to. But I don't have to. I don't have to own this. So when I look at situations like the pandemic, the question I ask is what effect does this have on an abuser's inclination, an opportunity to abuse?

Scott Hampton:
And when you think about the pandemic and our response to it, well, the inclination when they go through the financial stress, as Lyn was talking about, the social isolation that increases their inclination because they're having a really, really hard time, the opportunity to abuse. Well, now she's she's locked up in the house with him. There was I asked a man of my in my program as this was starting to take shape. And and I said, you know, what's this like? What's this like for you to have a pandemic here? And he said, well, it's about time. I'm sick of being the one who's always locked up. Let's see how she likes it. And so they're thinking about the how much easier it is for them to control their their partners and viewing this as as an opportunity to maintain control of their family members.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and Scott, just briefly remind us of the work that you do, because it's unusual and you providing a window into how abusers think that we sometimes don't hear about.

Scott Hampton:
Right. So while the work that Lyn and Jen do is focus primarily on working directly with the victims, I work directly the perpetrators. But but I should say a prayer that I also see myself as a victim advocate. And what I mean by that is that if I don't always keep first and foremost in my mind the safety of victims, I shouldn't be doing this work. So I work directly with the perpetrators will come in. They they come in for a group session. And we talk about ways that they can go about getting their needs met in their lives that do not involve causing problems for themselves or for other people. In other words, how do they lead a non abusive lifestyle? How did they develop healthy relationships? So it's basically a group format where we developed this sort of counterculture counter to the be ever so present misogyny and sexism and homophobia and racism, all of those problems in society. We try to create an environment where men can talk about healthier ways, sort of reconstructing what masculinity is all about.

Laura Knoy:
Well, this hour we are looking at adults facing domestic abuse and how complicated it can be to help them. Given that, as we're hearing, much of normal life is shut down right now, giving abusers an easier opportunity to do what they do. What would be helpful for you to know again if there's someone that you care about and that you're worried about during this time of societal shutdown?

Laura Knoy:
Our guests are Lyn Scholett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Scott Hampton, director of Ending the Violence based in Dover. But he works statewide. And Jennifer Pierson, executive director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, which maintains a shelter and also works in advocacy to victims and survivors. And Jennifer, to you, what have the calls been like to your shelter?

Jennifer Pierson:
Our calls are actually really decreased since all of this started on average. Our advocates take around 30, 40 calls a day. And right now they are fielding about eight to 10 calls a day. And that's simply because victims don't have access to make those calls. As Lyn was alluding to, they are there in the home. Without that reprieve of going to work, going to school, they're not able to pick up the phone and call us and have a conversation about what's going on. And in the midst of all of this, we have worked really thoughtfully, but quickly with the coalition and all of the sister programs throughout the state to implement some new technology to make it easier for victims and survivors to access us without making a phone call. So we have rolled out online chat services and texting as well so that victims have a safer way without picking up the phone and calling.

Laura Knoy:
Sure, be hard if you're stuck with your abuser all day. Make a private phone call. Now, give us those numbers again, Jennifer, because those are important. How much your calls have gone down?

Jennifer Pierson:
Yes. So on average, we take about 30 to 40 calls a day. And right now, we're down to about eight to 10 calls. Wow.

Laura Knoy:
And then toward that end, in terms of, you know, texts or messaging. I know that there has been some concern around telehealth people getting mental health counseling, for example, online and so forth, about security. What about those communications? Jennifer, online, clearly you need to reach people and connect with people. But how do you keep those connections secure?

Jennifer Pierson:
Sure. So we are working with a company that has specifically designed based around our our confidentiality.

Jennifer Pierson:
So it would be the technology itself is secure and also allows a quick, quick escape, though, if the victim, the victim's abuser does walk in the room, they can escape out and it take them to a Google home page. So all of that is secure. And the only factor that may come into play is if somebody has put spyware or malware onto their device.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, sometimes it is pretty easy to track people's. Yes. Online histories. Go ahead, Jen.

Jennifer Pierson:
We do give a disclosure. So whenever somebody does chat or text us, they get an automatic message that that if they believe that somebody had access to install spyware, not to use that service.

Laura Knoy:
Interesting. Could you jump in on that as well? Lyn, how you know, you can't really make a traditional call if your abuser's in the next room are in the same room. How different crisis centers and shelters around the state are trying to transition to online support?

Lyn Schollett:
Absolutely. So the crisis center of central New Hampshire is really one of the leaders in adopting some of this technology.

Lyn Schollett:
And at the same time, we are in conversations with colleagues around the country who are doing the same thing because the whole country is obviously being impacted by this crisis at once. So we are looking at more innovative forms of technology that do reflect what people are already using, as you indicated, for telehealth. We're also really trying to give guidelines both to crisis center staff and to victims who are reaching out for help about really basic ways to maintain your own privacy at home. It might mean that you have to take a phone call sitting in your car. It might mean that while your kids play outside, you can take a more confidential phone call inside. So we're still focused on that really core philosophy of providing services in the way that victims need while also working to protect their confidentiality.

Laura Knoy:
And how secure are some of these networks that people are using?

Lyn Schollett:
Yeah, as Jen indicated, our national partners have been working with many of the manufacturers of these programs, which have really been set up to ensure that private and confidential communications can happen between a victim and a trained advocate at a crisis center. It is important, however, though, that people know what's on their devices and that there isn't anything that could be tracking their communications well.

Laura Knoy:
Got an email from Emily and again. Emily, thank you for writing. Emily says, I was wondering about the issue that an abusive partner or ex-partner might leverage. COVID-19, fear to keep from returning the child is part of a court order. An abuser could certainly try to use that to maintain control or punish the non-offending parent. And Scott, I'll throw that to you first. You mentioned isolation is a tool for abusers. They can take that opportunity. What about using fears of coronavirus as another opportunity to maintain that power and control?

Scott Hampton:
Yeah, the one we're talking about, social isolation, we think about the tactics that are available to abusers. A lot of times people say, well, it's domestic violence. What you're really talking about is just about a bunch of wife beaters and that it's really all about physical violence. There actually are 16 different kinds of abuse. Am I going to go through the entire list? But I asked the men in in my group, I do this periodically. If you had to give up one of your tactics, the physical, psychological, emotional, social. Different tactics, which one would you give up? And they tell me that the one they would give up most readily is the physical, which seemed odd because it seems so effective. But the reason is that physical is what gets them caught. It's it's what leaves evidence. And what they're more likely to do is to use other tactics of control. And one of the one of the greatest areas is the social, social isolation. So what I've heard many abusers tell me is they say my job is to make her more dependent on me than I am on her. So if I can because if if she needs me more than I need her, I don't have to worry about her leaving me.

Scott Hampton:
So they try to push away all of the social supports, whether it's family, whether it's friends, whether it's co-workers. And so we look at the effect of of COVID on this. If if his goal is to socially isolator, he doesn't have to do any work. I want her to stay away from the co-workers. Done. She can't go to work. I want to keep away from her family and friends. Done. They have to be isolated somewhere else. We're not allowed to go visit them. So the pandemic in some ways has been the ultimate ally for abusers. And in some ways, it's pushing us back about half a century when in the 1970s we were just opening the door. We used to be domestic violence used to be this this private matter where it was no one else's business. We opened the door and allowed the community and to say, no, this is a public health matter all of its own. And now with coded, we've slammed the door shut again. Now, he said that stay away order that you might get from the courts, that's being superseded by the stay at home order being issued by the governor and response to the pandemic. So for a lot of abusers, COVID is working quite nicely.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. It's so sad. It profound to hear you say that, Scott, that the pandemic is doing the work that abuses normally would have to do themselves. That's so sad.

Scott Hampton:
It's it's in some ways the pandemic is the ultimate appeals court.

Laura Knoy:
You know, getting on the tools that abusers use and to Emily's email, what about children? How often are those used also as a tool of, you know, if you come forward with these allegations, you know, I'll keep the kids.

Scott Hampton:
Yeah.

Scott Hampton:
One of the hats that I whereas I run a supervised visitation center where where parents come in and and they use the center because it's unsafe to exchange the kids outside of there because of some domestic violence or other form of abuse. So there's something that I sometimes referred to as the victim blame sandwich, which has always, always been in effect. And it goes something like this. If if a parent is vulnerable to the other parent and but stays in the relationship with kids there, she might get blamed for failure to protect the kids. OK, so now she leads. But if she's hesitant, then to turn around and exchange the kids or give the kids to the other parent, she's hesitant because of fear for their safety. She's now accused of parental alienation. So she's damned if you do. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Scott Hampton:
In in the current environment with COVID there, courts have been hearing some concerns. I just heard about this yesterday where one of the parents said, oh, my co-parent works at a retail establishment. That's a dangerous place because of all the exposure to the virus. She's not protecting the kids very well. So here we go. Failure to protect again. Then if she is hesitant to send the kids on over to the parent for exactly the same reason, then she gets accused of custodial interference. So the kids have become a very convenient weapon. And what we need to try to do in a visitation center and other places is find creative ways to maintain the parent child contact without further jeopardizing the safety of either the parents or the children.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, we talked earlier in our earlier hour about conflicts between parents, about how how seriously one household is taking the Corona virus versus another household. And that does seem to be causing causing a lot of issues and is being used in some instances. As you say, Scott, as a way of control. We are going to take a short break. When we come back. We will take more of your calls and e-mails. Emily, thank you for that one. And coming up, we'll hear more about how services for domestic abuse victims have had to change and whether they can be as effective. Stay with us.

Laura Knoy:
This is the exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. this hour. Adults facing domestic abuse and how complicated it can be to help them given that much of normal life is shut down right now, listeners. Are you concerned about someone in your own life during this pandemic? What would be helpful for you to know so that you can help that person? Let's hear from you.

Laura Knoy:
Our guests are Lyn Schollett, executive director, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Scott Hampton, director of Ending the Violence. And Jennifer Pierson, executive director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, which provides shelter and advocacy to victims and survivors. And Jennifer. I did want to ask about the status of your shelter right now. Are you still able to provide emergency support?

Jennifer Pierson:
We are. We were at capacity prior to COVID and we are still housing those those folks that are in shelter.

Jennifer Pierson:
So we are fully up and running.

Jennifer Pierson:
And our our challenge right now is what to do when we get shelter calls. And I think that is pretty common across the state.

Laura Knoy:
So you're full, Jennifer, right now. You can't take in new people, is that which was correct?

Jennifer Pierson:
Correct.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. So what are you doing when someone calls and says help and you don't have any room?

Jennifer Pierson:
We do have the thanks to Governor Sununu issuing that $600000.

Jennifer Pierson:
We do have the ability to hotel people that are in imminent danger. We are working around the issue of hotels being closed. He it did exempt. When he did the shutdown of hotels, Airbnb's and rentals, Governor Sununu did say that the folks that would be exempted from that were medical health professionals and domestic violence victims. So he has worked really closely with the coalition and Lyn's team to make sure that that these victims are protected in this time where they are at a heightened level of danger.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and Lyn I ask you about that, too. But first, go to our listeners again. And from Manchester, Rasheeda is calling in. Hi, Rasheeda. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
Hi, Laura. Thank you for taking my call.

Caller:
I just wanted to appreciate all this evidence that the crisis services and the coalitions are doing, and Scott too. I wanted to add that we are at the police department. We're still receiving calls. The officers are still going to domestic violence calls. And we have 37 cases. since The court is closed. That's I've been waiting for the court to be open on May 4th. Hopefully the police department is still doing services. The officers I would they are going for the calls every time, every minute that I receive a call for domestic violence, regardless of if it's a criminal case or just a complaint of disagreement between partners.

Laura Knoy:
Well, so, Rasheeda, you're a police officer in Manchester.

Caller:
I am not, I am an advocate with the domestic violence unit.

Laura Knoy:
So I see. OK. It's great that you called. So you're seeing a continuation of calls, Rasheeda or a drop off that some of our other guests have mentioned.

Caller:
We are seeing a continuation of calls. Right. We feel I just got the stats today for simple assault. We have. One hundred and ninety one cases last year we had one hundred sixty seven. For second degree, We had twenty two cases. Last year we had nineteen. For first degree last We had one last year we had zero. For a violation of protective order, We have eighteen. Last year we had fourteen. For stalking. We had sixty two last year. And we have. 54 this year. For domestic no crime, which those the ones are mostly I'm concerned about. We have two hundred seventy one and last year we had 240 and domestic no crime.

Caller:
That's when the officers goes to the call and the victim does not disclose there is physical activity. They would say we just were loud. We have stress we are. Have a disagreement on personal issues. But there is no crime activity that's happening.

Laura Knoy:
Wow Rasheeda so I'm so glad you called. Is there anything else you want to just share with our listeners, given again that you work on this issue with the Manchester Police Department? Just anything you want people to know or to think about, especially in this time, Rasheeda?

Caller:
We are still open for business. If we can say that we are still receiving calls, our officers are trained, trauma informed and they go to the call 24/7. And not just in Manchester and I'm gonna assume in all New Hampshire.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Rasheeda, thank you very much for calling in. I really appreciate it. Thank you. And Lyn, we heard from Jennifer a moment ago about her shelter and how if there's no room at her shelter, thanks to the governor's new funding, she's able to find hotel rooms for people. What are you hearing from other shelter operators around the state, Lyn?

Lyn Schollett:
So the governor has issued three executive orders that impact victims of domestic and sexual violence, and Jen referenced the first one, which does include six hundred thousand dollars in funding that's broken into three categories. The first category is funding for immediate expenses that victims may have, especially victims who are fleeing, but maybe not expenses like rent, groceries, transportation, paying a phone bill, basic costs that will help them stay safe. The second category is the one Jen referred to, which is short term lodging, probably at a hotel. Historically, some of our programs have been able to use rental cabins or other places like that. In the third category of funding is funding to help the crisis centers keep their doors open like so many nonprofits in New Hampshire. All of our programs are going to experience a significant drop in privately fund raise dollars in the next several months as we've had to cancel so many events at which people come together and contribute resources toward the crisis centers. So we are quickly working with the governor's office to help identify those locations that would be available for safe lodging under his second executive order. And we are going to work very quickly to get this funding out to the crisis centers, because these are immediate costs. These are costs that victims have right now and needs they have right now to stay safe. A perfect example would be we've heard from a couple of programs where abusers are about to be released from jail and would be coming back into the home. And the victim is very fearful and needs to get out of the home to stay safe and needs lodging immediately.

Laura Knoy:
So give us a little bit more on that, because I have seen some of that in the news. So people have done their time behind bars for domestic violence crimes. They're about to be released and the victim feels as if they have nowhere to go.

Lyn Schollett:
There's kind of two issues here, Laura. That is one of them in that individual cases that have naturally worked their way through the system may be coming up and an abuser's release is scheduled. Probably the bigger concern we have is that there have been significant requests to release mass amounts of folks who are incarcerated based on them being a medically fragile or more at risk for contracting COVID-19. The significant concern we have here is that it is really vital for the Department of Corrections or local jails or the courts to be balancing safety issues for victims whenever that issue comes before them because of a domestic violence offender is released back into the community or back into the home where he or she was battering the person they were living with. We suddenly have a huge additional safety risk for that victim. So it's really important that the decision makers not make just blanket decisions about releasing individuals, but instead really weigh the circumstances in these cases. One of the cases that did get a lot of press this week in Carroll County involves someone who is convicted of domestic violence that involved firearms. The focus of the hearing was the offender's request to be released based on his medical fragility. And there was also significant discussion during the hearing about his interest in getting his firearms back.

Lyn Schollett:
The victim made a very public statement about being very, very fearful. So it's critical that these issues are considered and weighed by the courts before offenders are released back into their communities in their homes.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I want to ask all of you about firearms a little bit later, background checks and so forth. Given that we are seeing this rise in domestic violence, but I would love to share this e-mail that just came in with you. This person did not want to give his name. He says, I live in Keene and have been emotionally abused by my now ex wife for about seven years. We have a 50/50 parenting arrangement and I want to share that she has attempted to keep the children due to, quote, fears of coronavirus within my household. This person says this show is really resonating with me, unfortunately. I also want to point out that it's not only men who are the abusers, and that's an important point. And I thank the person for writing in. And Scott, to you first. Is there anything in this e-mail that you want to address? It's an important point.

Scott Hampton:
Yeah, I think it's I think it's a very important email for a couple of things one. At first it he underscored the well, two things.

Scott Hampton:
One was that domestic violence doesn't know any any gender, racial, age limits abuse can go any direction. So anyone can be abusive towards another. And as I was mentioning before, the physical abuse is not the only kind of abuse out there that sometimes the emotional or psychological abuse can be just as common. It could be it could be just as harmful. And it also also underscored the role of children in that. And that one of the things that I think we as a system need to do is to be able to focus on both priorities. The importance of parent child relationships and the importance of of of the of the safety of of everyone involved. What's what's really in some ways challenging about COVID is that in some ways this is brand new for us. You know, we've never seen this particular kind of a public health crisis. On the other hand, it's also very familiar. And I think one of the opportunities that that this situation gives us is it helps us to understand what it's like to feel unsafe. I've never felt unsafe in a relationship, but I do feel unsafe if I go to the grocery store. And I think one of the things that domestic violence victims have known for so long is about what that's like to never, never feel completely safe in their environment. And now they're all in society is getting a little taste of that to say this is what it's like when you don't know if you or the people around you are gonna get sick, if they're gonna die. Everyone's gonna be safe. And I think that that glimpse into what it's like to be in danger, I think will be helpful for all of us as we think about how it is that we offer services to domestic violence victims. So I hopefully use that particular long after the pandemic is over.

Laura Knoy:
So that constant level of stress that's sort of always there that we're all feeling right now. Scott, you're saying that's what domestic violence victims feel all the time.

Scott Hampton:
Right.

Scott Hampton:
And we're and we're we're able to take a take a look at that and hopefully develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion rather than what we've often done in societies, which is engage in a lot of victim blaming. We don't see what they're going through. We're not in their house. We and we're very judgmental often of how victims deal with their situations. Now we get to see what it's like when we're out. We're all in danger. To some extent.

Laura Knoy:
And let's take a call. This is Terry in Philadelphia calling in. Hi, Terry. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
Thank you. Thank you for having me. I. I wanted to. I have two questions. But first, I'd like to say that I've I've worked with Lyn Scholett and her team both in New Hampshire and in Illinois. And so New Hampshire is very fortunate to have such an exemplary leader in this field, a national leader. In fact, my key questions are this. Are there any issues related to advocates themselves dealing with the incoming, becoming infected and therefore reducing the numbers of folks that are available to help victims? You know, how is that special subset being addressed and two, Are you in New Hampshire seeing any issues where courts are reluctant in light of COVID to be handling or fast tracking emergency hearings?

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Great questions, Terry, and thank you very much for calling in. And Lyn I'll throw that first one to you. Advocates becoming infected. You know, some people are still going out and doing the work. Jen is still running her shelter. So go ahead, Lyn.

Lyn Schollett:
Absolutely, I think this looks a little bit different on a statewide level and on a local level, so maybe Jen wants to talk about the local piece.

Lyn Schollett:
But what we're doing for the coalition staff first and foremost and we encouraged our programs to do it, is to adapt our policies to recognize that staff are being asked at the same time that they are doing these incredibly challenging jobs. Many, many staff members also have additional caretaking responsibilities at home, maybe caring for a parent or homeschooling their children, which is equally important. So we're adapting our leave policies and trying to be flexible and supportive so that people can stay safe with their families. We're also trying to make sure that staff in our office have resources to work remotely and the flexibility to work when they when they need to work. And also recognizing that this is an incredibly stressful environment for anyone responding to people in crises.

Lyn Schollett:
So we're looking at all of those things. But Jen, I know there are other things you're putting in place, particularly in terms of responding to the shelter.

Laura Knoy:
Well, right and I wanted to ask you that Jen, I mean, can you really practice social distancing at a shelter?

Jennifer Pierson:
It's incredibly difficult communal living. There is no way to practice social distancing. Our shelter has 21 beds and each each bedrooms, we have seven bedrooms. That's their only private space. Everything else is communal living from kitchen to laundry room to living room to kids playroom. It's hard to social distance in that environment. As far as staffing goes, I'm the only one that is going into shelter at this point. I do have a number of staff that have commitments to children at home and have.

Jennifer Pierson:
You have their own personal reasons for not going into the shelter at this time. And I'm very respectful of that. So I go in, I check on everybody, I deliver mail, food and I wear my mask and check in on everyone. But, you know, it's important that that staff is taking care of themselves, too. And for that reason, we only have one person going in and out.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. So what happens, Jen, if someone in your shelter and your capacity develops COVID-19 from the Coronavirus?

Jennifer Pierson:
Yeah. Yeah. Great question. At this point, we are taking pretty extreme measures to make sure that that doesn't happen, folks are staying in and not leaving the house unless they have to. We have had community members that have been fantastic and just donated everything that they could possibly need so that they don't have to go out to the store. We're doing check ins with them daily to make sure everybody's feeling okay and doing okay.

Jennifer Pierson:
In the event that there was an outbreak in the shelter, I think we'd have to cross that bridge when we came to it. And we would we would potentially have to close the shelter, but we would still house everyone off site.

Laura Knoy:
Given the hotel money that's now available that you mentioned earlier?

Jennifer Pierson:
Correct, correct.

Laura Knoy:
So, Terry, great questions and we will address your court questions after a short break. So stay with us. We will address that coming up in just a moment.

Laura Knoy:
I also want to let listeners know that if someone, you know, needs help, the 24 hour domestic violence hotline is 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. Let me give that again, 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. And someone will be there to answer your questions to connect you with resources. Speaking of resources, we have a ton on our Web site today, NHPR dot org Slash Exchange. We'll be back in a moment.

Laura Knoy:
This is the exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. this hour. Adults in domestic abuse situations and efforts to support victims within the constraints of a public health crisis. Let's hear from you if you're concerned about someone in your life who might be facing abuse during this pandemic. What questions do you have for our guests? We have three guests, Lyn Scholett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Scott Hampton, director of Ending the Violence. And Jennifer Pierson, executive director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, which runs a shelter and provides other supports. And all of you, just before the break, we got great comment from Terry, who, even though lives in Philadelphia, seems to work a lot in New Hampshire. And Terry asked about the criminal justice system in terms of domestic abuse. And Lyn, throw this to first. Anybody else jump in? What happens with some of the typical court protections, such as restraining orders, protective orders, emergency hearings and so forth? What's going on with that, Lyn?

Lyn Schollett:
So they've been pretty significant changes to our court system in New Hampshire, which folks may have read about in the media. Many, many court hearings have been suspended or delayed. However, the Supreme Court has made some very specific exceptions related to victims of domestic violence and victims of stalking. In particular, victims are still able to file protective orders. And one of the changes that has happened very quickly is that those of those fillable forms are now available on the court Web site, and advocates should still be able to attend a hearing with a victim. If a victim already has an order that would have expired prior to the end of the governor stay at home order. That order is automatically extended by the court system until after that. Stay at home. Order is lifted. So, you know, it's not a perfect situation. But I do appreciate that the courts have recognized that specific safety issues for victims of stalking and domestic violence and continuing to make those remedies available and accessible.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. There's a lot to keep track of. And some of these documents are so important in these processes to get people to safety. And it sounds like, Lyn, you're saying it's still happening, but not the way it used to.

Lyn Schollett:
That's right. And many other kinds of cases are not moving forward. And several of the other folks on the show have referred to some of the challenges around family law and custody cases. And those are not being expedited in the same way. And so that is creating extreme stressors for parents, for non-offending parents who are hoping to keep their children safe. So it's difficult. It's very difficult situation. But I think what we want to make sure that victims know is that help is still available. The courts are open for emergency orders. Hospitals are still providing forensic evidence collection and medical care. And trained advocates at crisis centers throughout the state are still available, even if it's by phone to talk to victims about these processes and how they can access these remedies.

Laura Knoy:
And again, the hotline is 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4.

Laura Knoy:
That's a lot more information on our Web site, NHPR dot org slash exchange as we talk about court orders and so forth. Scott, what about guns and the potential for abuse to turn to murder? We've heard these stories before. What have you heard about background checks and whether they're increasing at this time of increased concern about domestic violence?

Scott Hampton:
Well, the area that concerns me the most, there is a process that we use in New Hampshire that law enforcement uses in conjunction with the crisis centers. It's called the Lethality Assessment Program. And what that is, is that when an officer responds to a potential domestic violence call, they do a screening to see whether or not or to gauge the level of danger that the that the domestic violence victim is in. And it's a it's a tool that was developed by Jackie Campbell down in and in Maryland. And it's a well researched tool called the danger assessment tool. And if the person screens as being in a high level of danger, there's a phone call made by the police officer to the crisis center to try and connect the victim up with with services. The reason I mentioned that is that they're on that screening tool. There are a few items that are considered especially risky. And and one of those is the ownership or access to weapons, whether or not the gun it's ever been used as a threat against the other person's life. The reason this is so important is, is that some of Dr. Campbell's research has shown that merely owning or possessing a weapon increases the risk of lethality to the domestic violence victim.

Scott Hampton:
Again, even if it's never been used as a threat, what's happened in COVID, it is the number of people who have been going out purchasing weapons has increased dramatically. So even if there's no direct connection, I'm going to go buy a gun so I can kill my partner. That's not necessary. If I go out and buy, buy that gun and and I'm in a situation where I've been abusive to my partner and we're in a situation where I have access to her 24/7 because we're both stay at home. Her risk of dying increases by by many fold. And one of the ways people have explained what why it's so dangerous is having an access to a gun, is that it? All it takes is a little twitch of the finger to end someone's life. It doesn't take a lot of thought or a lot of planning to engage in a lethal attack. So I'm very, very concerned about how the the access to weapons and the access to victims and the additional stressors are all coming together in sort of sort of a perfect storm.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and Lynn, you mentioned earlier filing for protective orders and how many of the regular court procedures have either migrated online or have slowed down. What if people don't have access? To the Internet, not only maybe they live in a area where the access isn't great or maybe they no longer have access because of their domestic situation. How does somebody file for protective order online?

Laura Knoy:
If they don't have access online.

Lyn Schollett:
Then they should definitely connect with their local crisis center. The crisis center in their area will be able to help them access the forms and give them guidance on how their individual court would accept those forms. So connecting to the crisis center is always a great first place to go.

Laura Knoy:
And again, connecting by regular old phone if possible, or accessing public Wi-Fi. Somebody talked earlier in our first hour about, you know, homeless teenagers hanging out at Dunkin Donuts because they use the public Wi-Fi there. So. Is that what you're talking about, then?

Lyn Schollett:
Absolutely. Just calling the crisis center the crisis centers.

Lyn Schollett:
You know, one of the things that has become so clear in this COVID crisis is we always knew that crisis centers were innovative, were scrappy, were victim centered, were resourceful, figured things out every single day on behalf of survivors. And what I see the crisis centers doing now is just rising to the occasion. And they will figure it out with a survivor, whether they need short term housing tonight, whether they need money for groceries for their kids for this afternoon, or whether they need how to get that form and get it to the courthouse. I have 100 percent faith in the advocates around this state that they will figure it out.

Laura Knoy:
And again, that crisis number 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. Jen, how are the residents at your shelter feeling right now, given the constraints of the Coronavirus, given that they're already, you know, in a very stressful situation?

Jennifer Pierson:
They're scared. I mean, they're human beings.

Jennifer Pierson:
They are going through a lot of trauma and processing that trauma. It's their own personal situation. The pandemic on top of that, it's incredibly difficult.

Jennifer Pierson:
I like to go with the one day at a time method with them, because it's if we think about it, you know, one month from now, two months from now, three months from now, it's just too overwhelming. And we just have to do this one day at a time. And a lot of them are. Disappointed that they're not meeting goals were very goals centered.

Jennifer Pierson:
But how can you meet goals when the entire world is shut down right now, so we know we just work with them and talk with them and make sure that they know that this isn't them failing at anything.

Jennifer Pierson:
There is no way to meet goals right now. And we're here for them. And we're going to do this one day at a time right along with them.

Laura Knoy:
Well, let's take another call. This is Eric in Nashua. And Eric, thank you for being with us. Go ahead. You're on the air.

Caller:
Yes. Good morning.

Caller:
How you guys doing OK, given the data, given the data that exists with our law enforcement, domestic violence at 40 percent compared to general population at 16 percent. What is being done to make sure that the law enforcement community and their families are being safe not only from the coronavirus, but the domestic violence incidences that are related to the stresses that's inducing?

Laura Knoy:
Now, Eric, I'm so glad you called. And we've talked about this in other shows in the past. I'm really glad you raised it, Scott. Just enlighten us there. Eric is right. There's added stress on our law enforcement and sometimes that can lead to domestic violence.

Scott Hampton:
Yeah, and and we find it with law enforcement. We find that with military, we find it in the legal profession. And and I think the larger message is that as pervasive as it by the term the pandemic is, this is affecting everyone.

Scott Hampton:
Everyone is it it is having increased levels of stress, having all the strategies that we normally fall back on in terms of what you need some help. Go visit a neighbor. Go visit a friend. There are so many strategies that are only available, just just aren't there? So we need to become. When you become very creative in how we do this and we need to offer supports to everyone. So one of the things that we've talked a lot about today is about how we offer the supports to to victims. The other thing we need to do is we need to offer support to the potential abusers as well. So one of things that that we're doing in our program is making sure that even if there are times when we can't meet with them face to face in a group because of the stay at home, we're still doing outreach with them. And so the support that we're offering is a little bit different in terms of it's not how to avoid being abused by someone else, but it's how how to continue to make healthy choices and how to find a way to to own our own struggles, get the help that we need so that we're not placing other people, other people in danger. So I think it's an excellent point.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, I'm really glad that you called, Eric. So, Scott, how would you advise someone who, you know, is friendly with or related to a police family that might be feeling additional stress in this time? What should those loved ones watch out for if they have a concern?

Scott Hampton:
I think it starts with with a conversation. If they're if they know people who are in that situation, even though we can't have face to face contact, we can still make phone calls. We can still text. We can still email. And and a simple outreach just says, you know, this is a really difficult time for all of us. I wonder how you're doing. And and one of things I think is true for law enforcement and a lot of similar professions is that it's not natural necessarily for a police officer or someone, the military to reach out for help. And I think we need to send the message that it's OK to do that. That it's not a sign of weakness for people to say, you know, I'm scared, I need help, I need support, I need some connection. And so I think we need to reach out to those people and let them know that that even though they're I don't like the term social distancing because I don't think we need a social distance. I think we need to physical distance. And so I think we need to reach out and say, I'm still here for you.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, I'm glad you raised that. I've heard more people using that term physical distancing.

Laura Knoy:
Jen, last question for you, please. And it relates to what Eric said.

Laura Knoy:
What would you say to loved ones, family, friends, co-workers who might have a concern about a person who might be being abused? What should the rest of us watch out for?

Jennifer Pierson:
I think it's important to know that we as crisis centers statewide, we're not just here for the victims. We're also here for those that are impacted by the abuse. So if you think that somebody that you love is being abused, you can call us and you can call us anonymously. We can talk you through it. We can give you red flags. We can let you, you know, validate your feelings that this is real. This is happening to your loved one. And we can give you support around how to support your loved one through with the situation that they're in.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Jennifer Pierson, we will let you go. Thank you very much for being with us today.

Jennifer Pierson:
Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
That's Jennifer Pierson, executive director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire. And last question for you, too, Scott. What are your hopes for how our state, our society will address this issue once we have hopefully moved past this virus?

Scott Hampton:
Yeah. What I think my, I have a very long list, but the list at the top list is. I hope that what we do is we realize that some of these restrictions now these stay at home or or inability to get some of our needs met, some of these restrictions have always been in place for victims. So victims with disabilities, victims who have a stalker in their lives, they've been having these restrictions for years. They've had it for their entire relationship. So I'm hoping that what this will do is give us an opportunity to see to do a better job of identifying, understanding and responding to victims long past the. Hopefully the soon end of this pandemic.

Laura Knoy:
It's the compassion that you talked about earlier, Scott.

Scott Hampton:
Right.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Scott, thank you very much also for giving us your time today. We really appreciate it. We'll talk again. That was Scott Hampton. He's director of Ending the Violence based in Dover. Operating state wide. And Lyn, just to wrap it up with you, too, please, this has been an especially tough time for the people that you work with. What positive developments are you looking at?

Lyn Schollett:
I think one of the biggest positive, one of the biggest positive developments is how crisis centers and the coalition and our supporters and our boards and our volunteers have pulled together with such a focus and emphasis on our mission. I think that day in and day out, we are watching staff and volunteers go above and beyond to get information out to the crisis centers, to get information out to the media, to get information out to legislators about what is needed and about the fact that there are ways that people can get involved and people can help. We will only end sexual and domestic violence when we approach it as a full community and we welcome the partnerships with our communities to make that happen.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Lynn, thank you also for being with us. We appreciate it.

Lyn Schollett:
Thank you very much.

Laura Knoy:
That's Lyn Scholett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Again, listeners, if you or someone you know needs help, you can call the 24 hour domestic violence hotline at 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4 again 8 6 6 6 4 4 3 5 7 4. And as always, you can find much more information at our Web site, NHPR dot org Slash Exchange. The exchange is a production of NHPR. Our engineer is Dan Colgan, our executive producer is Michael Brindley, our senior producers, Ellen Grimm. Our producers are Jessica Hunt and Christina Philips. Our fellow is Jane Vaughan. Thanks for being with us. I'm Laura Knoy.