In 1933 – another time of crisis for our country as the Great Depression swept from coast to coast – President Franklin Roosevelt uttered the famous words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Unfortunately, if you are living in a household where domestic abuse is present, you have a great deal to fear right now.

In the midst of this pandemic, we all have worries. Will we or someone we love become infected? How will we cover our rent or mortgage? How can we balance working from home with homeschooling? The quick spread of the coronavirus is anxiety-provoking. For some in our community, the situation is dire. The building stress is almost palpable. In this environment, I fear most for the women and children who are and may become the targets of abuse.

For these vulnerable Minnesotans, staying home does not mean staying safe. Calls to the statewide Day One domestic violence hotline are up 25 percent over last year as Minnesotans stay home, international reports confirm similar escalations in violence at home, even as we know that a dip is reporting can signal a limited ability to call for help.

In the United States, as many as one in four women are victims of domestic abuse. Every minute in this country, nearly 20 people are physically abused by a partner. In our state, one in four report physical violence from an intimate partner during her lifetime. One in 15 children are exposed to partner violence each year and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. And clear evidence shows a rise in depression and suicide that accompanies this domestic violence.

At the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, we are working with our community to ensure that the needs of women and girls, notably from communities of color and Indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ people, communities with disabilities, rural communities, and seniors are not forgotten as we collectively pool our resources to respond to this global pandemic.

We are deeply concerned about the potential for increased violence against women and children when staying home isn’t safe.

We are using our voice as the first statewide women’s foundation in the nation to highlight issues that deeply impact women and girls of color, groups that are disproportionately impacted by poverty and systemic racism well before this pandemic started.

As we close our doors to the virus, it’s important to ensure that safe options remain available to women and their families. At the Women’s Foundation, investing in safety for women and girls is a cornerstone of all we do.

Creating a Minnesota where all girls and women are free from all forms of violence is why our Fund for Safety invests in innovation to end gender-based violence, from sex trafficking to sexual harassment. As we expand upon our investments to end sex trafficking through our MN Girls Are Not for Sale campaign, we continue to listen and respond to community concerns and work across sectors to create social change and a stronger Minnesota.

COVID-19 is highlighting inequities that distinctly impact women and girls and making them starkly visible in ways we can no longer address with business-as-usual. As we amplify their experiences and deploy resources where they’re needed most, we have established an emergency response fund to meet the needs of Minnesotans experiencing gender-based violence, older women, and women and girls who need short-term financial support for everyday needs due to the effects of COVID-19.

We are fortunate to have funding partners who join us in this work, while on the ground there are remarkable nonprofits like Casa de Esperanza, and Asian Women United in St. Paul, Violence Intervention Project in Thief River Falls, and The Link in Minneapolis. From Moorhead to Mankato, frontline organizations are working every day of the year to meet the needs of women and children, now more than ever. Their community-specific lenses target the intersectionality of identities and barriers experienced by Latinas, immigrant women and girls, rural Minnesotans, and LGBTQ+ and vulnerable youth, while lifting up the assets that make each of our distinct Minnesota communities so vibrant and strong.

As we listen to the wisdom of community partners and prioritize their solutions in our grantmaking and policy decisions, we know that investing in communities experiencing the greatest hardships now means a stronger future for all Minnesotans.

I invite all Minnesotans to work together to ensure our neighbors have the resources they need to stay healthy and safe during these uncertain times. In the face of one of our world’s greatest challenges, I remain optimistic. By working together, we will emerge stronger.

If you’re being hurt or abused: Minnesota’s Day One Crisis Hotline 1.866.223.1111 assists you to get help, get safe, and get support. Advocates trained in supporting victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking can help you find a shelter and services in your area. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. 

Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) has created Resources & Tools for Victims and Survivors of Violence During COVID-19.

by Gloria Perez, President & CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota

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