Shelter In Place Increases Risks for Domestic Violence Victims And Survivors
By Kim Allman | Head of Government Affairs
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. As communities across the world continue to “shelter in place” to help decrease the spread of COVID-19, data suggests people experiencing domestic violence are facing increased dangers.
How to get help:
Call a Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential and anonymous support 24/7 by phone at 1-800-799-7233 and Loveisrespect provides teens and young adults with confidential and anonymous support by phone at 1-866-331-9474. Katie Ray-Jones, Chief Executive Officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Loveisrespect, is urging others to contact these hotlines on behalf of someone else as the pandemic response traps people at home with their abusers.
“Recognizing that it is going to be very difficult for a survivor to call a hotline when their perpetrator is sitting right next to them, or to be able to enter into an online chat with an advocate when their abusive partner is watching what they’re doing — we’re imploring friends, family, neighbors to contact these hotlines because you may be their only lifeline,” she said in a recent interview. These hotlines are also working to help place victims in shelters that are still open given the pandemic has reduced financial resources for many nonprofits.
Use Technology: Technology can be used by victims to increase safety and privacy, however it can also be misused by perpetrators to harass, abuse, or harm victims. NortonLifeLock, along with peer companies and the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), convened the Coalition Against Stalkerware, which combines expertise for domestic violence victim support and cyber security to help affected users.
With Stalkerware, abusers can get access to their victim’s messages, photos, social media, geolocation, audio or camera recordings through apps that run hidden in the background, without a victim’s knowledge. “Stalkerware can give abusers, stalkers, and other perpetrators a robust tool to perpetrate harassment, monitoring, stalking, fraud, and abuse. This type of abuse can be terrifying, traumatizing, and raises significant safety and privacy concerns,” said Erica Olsen, Director of the Safety Net Project at NNEDV.
A key objective of the Coalitions is to provide online resources for victims of Stalkerware: what Stalkerware is, how to detect if Stalkerware is on a device, and, most importantly, how to remove it and protect oneself. As an example, it is important to consider whether removing Stalkerware could potentially cause more harm, as the abuser will be informed immediately by the app, or it could erase evidence critical to a law enforcement investigation.
How you can help:
- Donate. Local, statewide, and national anti-domestic violence programs and victim assistance programs are in dire need of financial support. Find your state or territory coalition here and donate to these life-saving programs.
- Get involved and support survivors. Every person can take individual action to create a supportive community for survivors. Use NNEDV’s Get Involved Toolkit to get started.
- Speak out and speak up. Everyone can speak out against domestic violence using NNEDV’s 10 Tips to Have Informed Conversations about Domestic Violence. You can also call on your public officials to support life-saving domestic violence services and hold perpetrators accountable. Learn more and take action here.
NortonLifeLock is supporting the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City by providing 30,000 domestic and gender-based violence victims that visit a Family Justice Center (FJC) with Norton360 anti-Stalkerware. Located in all five boroughs, FJCs are safe, caring environments that provide one-stop services and support, including case management, economic empowerment, counseling, legal assistance, and more.
These efforts are part of a pilot of our newest social impact program, Tech for Good, and a first step in what will be a national program that supports domestic and gender-based violence survivors and other vulnerable populations.
To learn more about the Coalition Against Stalkerware, visit https://stopstalkerware.org/. For more information on resources available to domestic violence victims and how to get involved, visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence website.