With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic being an especially difficult time for survivors of domestic violence, the WomenShelter of Long Beach (WSLB) took time to celebrate Mother’s Day during this challenging time by distributing gifts and flowers to 102 women.
Mothers who’ve survived domestic violence and now receive services at the WomenShelter of Long Beach were given toiletries, accessories, floral arrangements and essential items such as diapers, formula and baby wipes in honor of Mother’s Day. The flowers were purchased by the WomenShelter and the gifts were donated by the Mary Kay Foundation, Handmade Especially for You, BOMBAS, S. Mark Taper Foundation Shelter Resource Bank, the Shelter Partnership and more.
Domestic violence cases have increased by 8%, with 933 cases compared to 863 at the same time last year, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a briefing on April 20.
Since the stay at home order was enacted on March 20 to slow the spread of coronavirus, many victims have been stuck at home with their abusers.
The WomenShelter of Long Beach shared some ways abusers may use the current pandemic to maintain power in relationships on its social media. Abusive behavior the community should be aware of during this time include:
-Threatening to throw someone out of the home if they become sick
-Preventing an ill person from accessing medical care
-Threatening to cancel the family’s or family member’s health insurance
-Withholding someone’s health insurance card
-Withholding essential items, like hand sanitizer
-Controlling how much toilet paper someone is allowed to use each day
-Purposefully telling cohabitants inaccurate information about coronavirus
“When victims/survivors are forced to stay home or in close proximity to their partner more frequently,” the WomenShelter wrote in the post, “these circumstances coupled with additional stressors like loss of employment and school closures can exacerbate the violence occurring at home.”
The WomenShelter’s 24/7 domestic violence hotline can be reached anytime at (562) 437-4663, and is open to all victims of domestic violence regardless of age or gender. Those needing help can also email the WomenShelter of Long Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org. The shelter’s website contains a ‘quick escape’ button near the top right corner of the page, in case a viewer needs to exit immediately if their abuser walks in the room.
While the WomenShelter is able to provide safe and confidential housing for those who are able to escape, attempting to leave an abusive partner can be extremely dangerous.
Executive Director of the WomenShelter of Long Beach, Mary Ellen Mitchell, said shelter staff still encounter people in the community who don’t understand why victims of domestic violence have a difficult time escaping.
“We still hear on occasion, ‘Why would someone stay with their abuser? I would just leave,’” Mitchell told the Signal Tribune.
The BBC reported on a study done in the United Kingdom by Dr. Jane Monckton Smith analyzed 372 murders committed by intimate partners of the victim and found that leaving an abuser was an especially dangerous time for victims. Monckton Smith went on to develop an eight stage pattern used in analyzing potentially deadly cases of domestic violence.
According to Monckton, when an abuser begins to feel they are losing control over the relationship they will begin to increase their control tactics, which can incLude threatening to commit suicide to make their victim feel guilty for leaving, threatening to harm the victim or their family, stalking and more. If these fail to make their victim return, abusers often shift their goal from regaining control of the relationship to getting perceived revenge on the victim, often through extreme acts of violence.
Between 40% to 50% of murdered women in the United States are killed by intimate partners, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health in 2003. In contrast, 5.9% of male murder victims were killed by intimate partners.
Nancy Romero of Long Beach was shot to death on July 11, 2019, in a case of intimate partner violence. Her romantic partner, John Osborne, also of Long Beach, later confessed to the killing and turned himself into police on July 16, 2019.
The danger abusers pose to their victims requires the WomenShelter of Long Beach to keep the locations of its emergency and supportive housing locations confidential.
Besides the threat of their abusers, survivors of domestic violence still face stigma in the local community because of the crimes that were committed against them.
A neighborhood association sued the City in 2018 to stop construction, when it found out a confidential housing facility by WomenShelter of Long Beach would be built in the area, as reported in the Press-Telegram. The neighborhood association complained that the housing facility was being built without the City notifying neighborhood residents or holding public hearings beforehand, despite this being done to protect the facility’s clients from being found by their abusers. The housing would’ve been built on residential land, and did not legally require any sort of public notice. However, the community had reservations against welcoming survivors of domestic violence into their neighborhood.
“It really took me by surprise when someone said to me ‘We don’t want those people in our neighborhood.’ Imagine that?” Mitchell said. “The people we serve are victims through no fault of their own. I will never be able to understand how someone could feel that way. I think it’s the same in Long Beach as in any other city and this stigma can keep the victims from asking for help because they fear how they will be treated when people find out.”