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Covid-19 Crime Survivor Updates

It bears repeating: These are strange and uncertain times.

We know that many of the people in our communities don’t feel safe right now, both in our neighborhoods and within our county jails and state prisons. Many of you have reached out to us over the past few weeks, sharing your experiences and detailing how unsettling or scary things have been. And without a clear end on the horizon, it’s hard to know how to manage the fears, threats, and dangers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Our advocacy work has been particularly mindful of how the pandemic is affecting people who have survived violence and of people who are at risk. COVID-19 is having a uniquely dangerous effect on survivors, and we have updates on three areas of our crime survivor advocacy work:

  • The most critical issues currently facing victims and survivors
  • How we are advocating for survivors’ health and safety, and
  • What you can do to support survivors in Oregon

Survivors in homes

The stay-at-home order is an effective tool for reducing the spread of coronavirus, but it does exacerbate the risk and danger levels for folks who were already in an unsafe situation at home.

  • For those experiencing intimate partner violence, people are particularly vulnerable at home, and additional stressors like unemployment and kids at home 24/7 are fertile ground for a situation to escalate.
  • For children, with child advocacy centers are not fully operational, kiddos are no longer coming into contact with teachers and other adults who would typically report abuse.
  • For elders, the abuse often goes unseen, and now older adults are even more vulnerable to both abuse and the risk for infection and that can be used as a tool to continue abuse against them.

We know that some people trying to stay healthy at home are living with someone who is hurting them. There’s been a significant spike in demand for victim services, and with long-standing gaps in community-based service delivery, there has been a need for additional resources to help meet the need.

Survivors in our communities

Communities of color are emerging as the most harmed and least helped, even in pandemic terms.

The national rate of infection and deaths is surging in communities of color, with African Americans being disproportionately more likely to get the virus and twice as likely to die. In Oregon, the Latinx community makes up 13% of our population, and they represent  22% of positive test results. And that number is believed to be higher since this doesn’t account for the masses of people we know were never asked to identify their racial identity.

Asian-Americans have been targeted in perhaps the most extreme ways in recent weeks. Coronavirus-related hate crimes against Asian Americans spiked dramatically nationwide. In the last two weeks of March alone, 1,100 incidents were documented by the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center.

Among immigrants, the circumstances are even more complex, particularly for people who are undocumented. People are experiencing delays in language access from schools and agencies and mounting fears of deportation for breaking stay-at-home orders. While immigrants and farmworkers drive much of the “essential” work force that is keeping us alive and well, workers continue to be exposed to violence and infection at higher rates than all other groups in Oregon.  And still they have little to no access to emergency support.

Survivors who are incarcerated

We also know that many people who are incarcerated in jails and prisons are survivors of trauma and violence. By some estimations, nearly all women who are justice-involved have experienced some type of abuse, and most men have as well.

But unlike in most homes, there is no way to practice social distancing in a prison. Particularly when correctional staff, medical professionals, and delivery people are in and out of facilities daily, the risk of spread is astronomical. The most alarming rates of contraction in facilities are in Chicago, in New York City, and in Arkansas where 38% of the state’s cases are in prisons.

Among people who work or live in facilities, people have deep and legitimate fears of contracting the virus. Indeed, 18 people already have at the time of this update on April 23.

How we’re advocating for survivors’ health and safety

We’re working with victim advocate groups across the state to address both funding and policy needs that are most urgent. This collaboration includes advocates at a governmental level, community-based level and advocates from within the Deptartment of Corrections. And we’ve had some success!

On Thursday, April 23, during National Crime Victims Week, the Oregon Joint Emergency Board voted unanimously to approve $2 million in funding to be directed to domestic and sexual violence survivor services.

Funds will support people who are experiencing intimate partner or other forms of violence at home so that survivors can receive the urgent services they need to be safe and begin to heal.

Allies who advocated for these funds include the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force, Oregon Law Center, the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police.

But there’s more work to be done.

We’re also working with partners to create policies that expand access to emergency protection orders, as well as advocating for alternatives to arrests where there is no risk to public safety.

And we’re building solutions toward victims’ needs in the event that Oregon decides that some prisoners can transition out of prison early. This approach will help ensure victims’ need for clear and timely information during this crisis that can offer safety while also addressing the equally critical need to  reduce the risk of infection for people within Oregon’s prisons.

Read our policy recommendations.

Add your voice. Take action today.

The Emergency Board’s unanimous vote in support of these funds is a huge victory for survivor advocates, and we hope you’ll email them a note of thanks.

Let them know that we’re grateful for their support, and that we also have more work to do to ensure that all Oregonians feel equally supported as the threat of coronavirus peaks in our state.

Catch up on our virtual briefing

Did you miss last week’s webinar on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting our communities? Here’s a 5-minute, abridged version that captures some of the highlights. We hope you’ll watch.

Your voice is power. Take action now.