The disastrous effects of the ongoing pandemic are undeniable. But it’s not until we pull back the curtain into people’s homes – into their private lives – that we can see the situation is far worse than many people realize. Since March 2020, CAPSEA has experienced an overwhelming surge in domestic violence and sexual assault incidents.

Because of the pandemic, victims are faced with challenges that they never could have foreseen, let alone prepared for. CAPSEA is doing everything possible to help them find shelter and stay safe.

1. Financial Strain
One of the most pronounced effects of the pandemic has been the financial instability it has forced upon families across the country. Men and women are battling unemployment, reduced hours, and lack of benefits, making financial security feel like an unattainable goal. This results in increased uncertainty and stress – common triggers for abuse.

CAPSEA has seen abusers drain their victim’s bank accounts, leaving them with nothing. Unable to pay their cell phone or car bills, victims find themselves unable to call for help or leave their homes. In some cases, money is so tight that victims are left with the choice of buying a cell phone to call for help or using the money to put food on the table for their children.

2. Victim Resources Cutbacks
The financial impact of the pandemic has not been limited to individuals – businesses and non-profit organizations have also been forced to make changes.

CAPSEA has seen a significant increase in demand for our services, but we have been unable to hire additional staff. We are proud to be one of the few agencies in the country to offer TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction) Counseling, but we have only been able to afford the proper training for a limited number of facilitators.

Our shelter services have also been impacted. Because of health and safety requirements, CAPSEA has been unable to utilize it’s shelter for multiple families, and has instead taken on the additional cost of placing victims in hotel rooms, which is more than three times the cost of housing in the shelter.

3. Lack of Privacy
While some may be enjoying the ability to schedule virtual appointments, get groceries delivered, and work remotely, victims of abuse are running low on options to get out of the house and away from their abusers.

These days, you can get by without ever leaving your home – which is a nightmare for victims battling domestic abuse or sexual assault. Finding a chance to be alone, especially in small towns like Elk and Cameron Counties, can be incredibly challenging. Even if a victim is able to get out to work, maybe their boss is their abuser’s brother and so the victim is afraid to seek help while at work.

Because of recent increases in unemployment, many victims are forced to be at home all day with their abusers. We’ve seen victims who only had access to a house phone in a very public area of the home, like the kitchen, so they are unable to call for help without fear of their abuser overhearing their conversation.

4. Seasonal and Location-Specific Obstacles
Winter is upon us and as a result, victims find themselves faced with unique obstacles brought on by the season.

Especially in areas like Elk and Cameron Counties, victims can find themselves particularly isolated in the winter months. Many are without access to a car that can safely drive through the snow and ice. And even if they are fortunate enough to have a safe vehicle, are they able to dig themselves out of their driveway if it is covered in snow without their abuser noticing?

Many victims in our area do not have access to broadband or DSL – they are still using dial-up internet. Others may have a cell phone, but they live or work in an area with little to no cell service, forcing them to rely on radio stations for basic updates and information.

It’s crucial to remember that in these times of unprecedented stress, non-profit victim service agencies like CAPSEA are here to help.

You do not have to go through this alone. CAPSEA is here to help you in every way that we can. At a minimum, I urge everyone to visit our website for more information about CAPSEA’s services, identifying and supporting victims of abuse, and additional ways to support CAPSEA’s mission –

24/7 Emergency Hotline Information
Elk County Hotline: 814-772-1227
Cameron County Hotline: 814-486-0952