Caring for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Philadelphia’s Women Against Abuse is supporting individuals impacted by domestic violence today—while providing them with opportunity to plan for the future

For Women Against Abuse (WAA), Philadelphia’s leading domestic violence prevention and service agency, the coronavirus has led them to rethink nearly every aspect of its operations. In the near term, the organization maintains two critical 100-bed emergency safe havens and transitional housing, all while working to keep residents socially distanced and safe. At the same time, the organization must maintain and provide legal assistance remotely, and come up with safe ways to promote and support its important community hotline. “To help people during the coronavirus, we’ve certainly had to really pivot,” says WAA Executive Director and President Jeannine Lisitski. “I’m so thankful our teams have been creative and engaged.”

At the shelters, only essential staff including security, maintenance and kitchen workers remain on site. Grab-and-go meals served in private rooms have replaced dining together. With courthouses closed, WAA’s legal team is securing protective and custody orders via teleconferences. The agency’s therapists have switched from face-to-face meetings to phone calls, made possible by the free cell phones provided to every survivor.

Still, costs have increased by more than $50,000 a week to cover personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and packaging for meal deliveries, as well as additional pay for the front line workers. To help meet this need, Bank of America gave Women Against Abuse a $50,000 grant, part of the bank’s $100 million in philanthropic support to address health and humanitarian needs related to the coronavirus, which is in addition to $250 million in philanthropy the bank gives annually.

We’re reaching more people virtually now because we’re forced to,” Lisitski says, “But that means we’ll be well equipped to do more in the future.

Jeannine Lisitski
Women Against Abuse Executive Director and President

For those experiencing domestic violence, the effects of isolation can be devastating, and many of the typical outreach tactics used by WAA have been limited by stay-at-home orders. The group is looking for new ways to spread the word of its services in a time of physical distancing, including placing posters in locations that continue to have heavy foot traffic such as grocery stores. To make it easier for homebound survivors to communicate privately, WAA is looking to add a chat function to its 24 hour helpline.

Going forward, the organization is looking for ways to make the most of what it has learned from these changes. “We’re asking ourselves what has been effective in remote work,” Lisitski says. For example, a prevention training program for high school students that covers healthy relationships and peer intervention has moved online. The success of that switch could lead to more online training. “We’re reaching more people virtually now because we’re forced to,” Lisitski says. “But that means we’ll be equipped to provide more support in the future.”

 

Bank of America’s partnership with Women Against Abuse aligns with the company’s broader efforts to prevent domestic violence and support survivors in our local communities. The company is committed to providing support for those impacted by domestic violence through benefits and resources that focus on physical, financial and emotional wellness.

Around the world, organizations like Women Against Abuse are adjusting to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of their communities. Learn more about the support Bank of America is providing, including its $100 million commitment to help them deliver the critical assistance that’s needed.

5/18/2020


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