The Coast News Group
Women's Resource Center
he Women's Resource Center in Oceanside offers various services to people facing domestic violence, including transitional housing and counseling services. Photo by Catherine Allen

COVID-19 requires adjustments to help victims of domestic violence

REGION — Responding to the risk of domestic violence during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, San Diego County is working to expand resources for a greater number of people.

According to the supervisor of Carlsbad Police Family Services Investigative Unit, Sergeant Reid Shipley, Carlsbad had 126 crime cases for domestic violence between March 1 and June 14, while receiving new cases daily.

“If a victim is isolated with their abuser, they may not feel safe to report domestic violence and that’s definitely a hurdle that we deal with in all domestic violence cases,” said Deputy Jenny Martinson, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s domestic violence coordinator. “The pandemic, the stay-at-home order, has definitely made that more difficult.”

As an agency offering services for domestic violence victims, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) currently serves 20 families in transitional housing and eight in their shelter.

WRC’s demand for shelter has declined, which Development Director Lauren-Jane Stephenson says is possibly due to victims being confined in the same space as their abuser.

Now, WRC looks to provide basic services such as helping with utility bills and toiletries, as up to 99% of domestic violence victims also face financial abuse.

“It was difficult for our clients as they were escaping their abuser and at the same time dealing with additional feelings of fear and isolation due to COVID, feelings victims are all too familiar with due to domestic violence,” Stephenson said. “I think what this has taught us the most as an agency is to always be ready to readjust to the needs of our community.”

Calling for a large-scale response, government officials, including U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), have proposed funding $50 million into programs that offer services against abuse, namely Family Justice Centers.

San Diego’s Family Justice Center, located downtown, offers victims critical resources and legal services, but with only one center in the county, outreach is limited.

“The county is looking at expanding victim services throughout the county so that we can reach areas like Vista all the way to Chula Vista,” Martinson said.

Shipley says that these centralized centers allow for collaborative approaches between police agencies and organizations, ensuring victims have the best opportunities available to them.

“In our unit we have the benefit of a long history of collaboration with a variety of other professionals to ensure that our victims, children and families receive the best possible service and support,” Shipley said. “Many of these crimes incorporate a variety of concerns, and therefore require a team of caring, invested, professionals to work collaboratively toward positive resolutions.”