ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WLVT) - Stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic can be dangerous for those in abusive relationships. While in-person access to resources has changed, there are still options.
Lori Sywensky manages Turning Point of Lehigh Valley. The Allentown-based nonprofit offers life-saving tools and support to victims and survivors of abuse.
Sywensky says all of Turning Point’s services, including counseling, shelter and a 24-hour helpline, are all still available.
''We are doing phone counseling for clients who feel safe doing so. We continue to house people, we’re just no longer bringing new people into our safe house building to limit exposure,'' said Sywensky. ''We had the police bring us a woman last week and we were able to find accommodations for her.''
Turning Point is working to find alternative locations to place people. Sywensky stressed that police and court services are still open. If you're being physically threatened or feel that your life is in danger, Sywensky says you should call police.
Here's a roundup of resources:
- National Domestic Violence24-Hour Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
- Turning Point Lehigh Valley24-Hour Hotline: 1-610-437-3369
- Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence - Find your local domestic violence program in Pennsylvania
- COVID-19 domestic violence resources
- PA Safe Law-Free civil legal information and referrals
In a statement to PBS39, Pennsylvania State Police reminded people that all police services, including help requesting a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order, are still available.
Julie Bancroft, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Harrisburg, says courts are adapting to the situation.
''We are seeing that courts are allowing temporary PFA’s to stay in effect with no expiration date until the PFA hearing can happen,'' said Bancroft. ''The courts will have a few set hours per week to handle PFA’s. You’ll need to call your local court to check for hours and to see how services have been impacted at this time.''
Sywensky says some abusers will take advantage of the crisis to scare or hurt their victims.
''Survivors of abuse are some of the most resilient people I know,'' said Sywensky. ''A program we work with just shared the story of a woman whose abuser forced her to sanitize her hands to the point where they bled. Another shared the story of a woman whose abusive partner kept leaving the house and was exposing her and her kids by essentially ignoring this pandemic. She was able to lock that person out.''
Bancroft offered tips for people to survive abuse while staying at home: ''Keep mind is that help is still available. Identify somewhere in the house that's safe or that can create a barrier or safe spot for you and your children. Be aware as to whether or not there are weapons in the home. Create an exit plan in case you need to leave your home.''
Bancroft says she is concerned about the uptick in firearms purchases throughout the last few weeks. She says abuse survivors are five times more likely to be killed when firearms are involved.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline remains open. That number is 1-800-799-SAFE.