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Ann Arbor’s women’s shelter warns of rise in domestic violence during COVID-19 isolation

Social workers and women's shelters predict a rise in domestic violence during COVID-19 closures.
Social workers and women's shelters predict a rise in domestic violence during COVID-19 closures. (Pexels)

ANN ARBOR – For most Americans, the issue of social isolation is enough to elevate our stress levels, but for another population, the risk of personal safety during this time greatly increases.

Domestic violence survivors are especially at risk right now, wrote executive director of SafeHouse Center, Barbara Niess-May, in a statement released this week.

SafeHouse Center is Washtenaw County’s women and children’s shelter and provides support to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

“With external factors of mass closures, record numbers of people not working or working from home and the tension of the unknown, stress can build and lead to increased incidences of domestic violence,” wrote Niess-May.

“In our work with survivors, it has been our experience that assailants use social isolation to gain greater control over the survivor. It often begins in subtle ways, but grows over time which minimizes any help a survivor can access and can have significant physical and mental health impacts. Examples of social isolation include alienation from family and friends, endanger employment, turn children against the survivor, and eliminating their role in household decision making.”

Niess-May said that behaviors to look out for during this time include:

  • Minimizing or preventing survivors efforts to secure supplies
  • Using social distance as a means to further control and disconnect completely (no social media, phone use, etc.)
  • May try to convince that they have the virus, or that someone in the household has the virus and it’s the survivor’s fault
  • Assailant stating that police won’t respond because they are too busy with the public health crisis
  • Claiming shelters and helplines aren’t available because “everybody is closed down.”

With fundraising events canceled, Niess-May said that community support of the shelter is critical at this time.

To learn of volunteer opportunities, click here.

To make a donation, click here.

According to its website, SafeHouse is operating its facility as normal during the public health crisis:

"SafeHouse Center wants the public and most of all survivors to know that we are committed to providing shelter and non-residential services with minimal disruptions while our community is managing the spread of COVID-19."

SafeHouse is at 4100 Clark Rd.

Its 24-Hour Helpline can be reached at 734-995-5444.


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