Peace House provides crucial lifeline during coronavirus pandemic
The global spread of the coronavirus has left its mark on the United States, from millions of lost jobs to shelter-in-place orders. As the country comes to grips with the full scope of the virus’ ramifications, Peace House, an organization in Park City dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence, is doing its best to ensure victims are not put in further danger.
Sally Tauber, director of development for Peace House, said the shelter is in constant contact with local authorities to craft their response to the coronavirus.
“Our team at Peace House has been working closely with multiple agencies including the Summit County Health Department, Utah Department of Human Services, the Utah State Domestic Violence Coalition and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to proactively reduce the impacts of COVID-19 in our community while supporting the safety of domestic violence victims and their families,” she said.
The coronavirus presents a unique danger to victims of domestic violence. For many, being ordered to remain at home means being ordered to shelter with their abuser. Tauber said that even relationships that are not yet violent can become so with increased contact and other added stressors like the loss of employment.
“Their abusive partner may not be working or are working from home, so they are further monitoring a victim’s day-to-day activities including who they talk to or if they leave,” Tauber said. “The abusive partner may use the current pandemic as a tool to further abuse by telling a victim they cannot go to out to get essential supplies or restrict access to medical care if needed.
“Unemployment, financial stress, and isolation are not the cause for domestic violence, but they act like gasoline on a fire that is already burning.”
Tauber said a point she wants to emphasize more than any other is simply that Peace House, which serves both Summit and Wasatch counties, is not going anywhere. It will not close its doors because of COVID-19.
“We have adopted updated practices that include the recommendations and mandates from the Centers for Disease Control and Summit County Health Department,” she said. “Peace House services are essential to the safety and well-being of our community members and we continue to operate our domestic violence victim services.”
That’s not to say it’s business as usual at Peace House. Out of an abundance of caution, some activities have been suspended until further notice. Those activities include:
• Meetings or group gatherings at the Peace House community campus
• Onsite volunteer opportunities
• Receiving in-kind donations in the lobby
• Education presentations in schools and in the community
• Support group or parenting classes
Peace House’s domestic violence victim services continue to operate, including the 24/7 help line, emergency shelter, legal advocacy services, case management and therapy.
“To promote social distancing, we are implementing flexible client care and using technology to support some services,” Tauber said. “We know how important it is to continue to provide these services for individuals and families, and we are working to reduce any barriers a victim may have to accessing support. “
As ever, and perhaps more than ever, Peace House itself needs the support of the community, Tauber said. The nonprofit has increased needs for supplies including cleaning supplies for sanitizing, activities for children, food and basic needs support. Its website, peacehouse.org, is updated regularly to reflect current needs.
“We have also had additional costs related to offering flexible client care including a new telehealth platform, equipment and direct assistance needs such as phones and cell service,” Tauber said.
In addition to helping Peace House directly, Tauber urged those who think a friend might be the victim of abuse to check on them regularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Consider establishing a safe word with that person that can be used to alert you if they are feeling unsafe and need law enforcement,” she said. “Peace House advocates are also available to talk to you about safety planning for a friend, family member or neighbor.”
Peace House is available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The help line is staffed by trained advocates to assist anyone who has experienced dating and domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking with safety planning, safe shelter and referrals to other services and programs whether those be in-house or within the community.
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The Park City Police Department last week and early this week received several reports of parties, a common complaint to the agency during busy times of the ski season. The cases did not appear to be serious, but they seem to show an uptick in activity in the community.