Sexual assault awareness during coronavirus pandemic: Increase in domestic abuse, remote resources


Photo by Elizabeth Ucles / Graphic by Gracie Watt

The rise in domestic abuse is occurring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some organizations that are looking to help are SAFE Alliance and the It’s On Us chapter at St. Edward’s.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Each month, organizations such as SAFE Alliance and It’s On Us (IOU) at St. Edward’s host large events to advocate for those who have experienced sexual assault. But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, popular events such as IOU’s Take Back the Night are no longer possible.

Take Back the Night is a march across St. Edward’s campus to show support for survivors of sexual assault. The march usually brings in large crowds as many St. Edward’s students come and participate every year. This year, it raises a huge safety concern due to COVID-19, which has people quarantining at home and standing six feet apart when leaving their houses.

Destiny Nicoll, a sophomore psychology major and Workshop Coordinator for IOU at St. Edward’s, highlights how April is commonly a busy month for her team.

Usually we do ‘Action Week’ in April. This includes four days of tabling to educate students on different aspects of sexual violence (dating violence, harassment, etc.),” Nicoll says. “The biggest event, however, is Take Back The Night.”

According to Nicoll, Take Back the Night is a worldwide march that has been around for 40 years.

While their on-campus and in-person advocacy is no longer possible, Nicoll says that her team plans to post resources on social media during the month and spread awareness remotely.

IOU frequently promotes their events and sexual assault awareness through on-campus tablings and social media.

Nicoll highlights that the best way for IOU and similar organizations to continue spreading their messages during the pandemic is to make sure they’re offering plenty of resources to stay connected to their audience.

With the coronavirus pandemic, studies also show that domestic abuse cases have risen in the last month. According to The Guardian, domestic violence cases more than tripled from February 2019 to February 2020, when lockdowns first occurred in the Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak initially occurred.

The rise in domestic abuse cases is a pattern that is often seen when communities face poverty. Here, it is seen due to people facing domestic abuse having nowhere to go except home with shelter-in-place policies established.

According to the Huffington Post, the rise in domestic abuse was also seen when Hurricane Harvey hit. These incidences often rise during natural disasters due to perpetrators having increased access to their families as support systems break down.

One organization that works to prevent these incidences and offer support to survivors is SAFE Alliance, a center for survivors to seek care and support during times of need. SAFE’s motto is “Together, we can stop abuse for everyone,” and they are making themselves available even when people can’t physically seek help at any of their locations.

They offer a variety of remote resources, such as a 24-hour hotline, a phone number for texts and an online chat room.

SAFE leaves this message front and center on their website: “Our doors are still open. We care deeply about the health and safety of our staff and clients and are dedicated to providing services to our clients even in the face of the spread of COVID-19.”

Visit SAFE’s website to learn more about their resources or receive help.