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Domestic Violence Shelters And Hotlines Are Open

A road going through downtown Rutland.
Nina Keck
Downtown Rutland was looking empty on March 20.

Domestic and sexual violence survivors can access support services despite COVID-19 and Gov. Phil Scott's "stay at home" order. 

Karen Tronsgard-Scott is the Executive Director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic And Sexual Violence. "We're very concerned about what might be happening behind closed doors," she said. 

Shelters are open, she said, and are operating at reduced capacity to maintain social distancing. "We're working closely with the state to make sure that anybody who needs shelter can get shelter," she said, "either in one of the nine established domestic or sexual violence shelters, or in a hotel." 

Gov. Scott's executive order to "stay home" includes an exemption for personal safety, and the Vermont State Police has confirmed that exemption allows anyone who is unsafe to leave home to seek refuge.

Additionally, Tronsgard-Scott said workers who support survivors of domestic violence are considered "essential personnel," and that state and national domestic and sexual violence hotlines are fully staffed as usual. "While they're working mostly remotely, they're able to help survivors in much the same way that they always have," she said: by providing a listening ear, and helping callers plan for their own and their children's safety.

Kate Brayton, director of victim services for the Major Crimes Unit of the Vermont State Police said police calls for domestic violence have held steady through the coronavirus crisis, so far. Tronsgard-Scott said she's heard hotline calls are up in Chittenden County, but that "things are quiet" elsewhere in the state. 

"You need a certain amount of bandwidth" to make plans to leave an abusive partner, she said, and "that bandwidth is significantly shrunk because the partner is there all the time." 

Tronsgard-Scott said she's reached out to analagous groups who weathered Hurricane Katrina, and was told to expect things to be quiet at first, but to prepare for an uptick in demand in the coming weeks. 

Resources recommended by law enforcement and advocates include:

  • Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence
  • Vermont Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-228-7395. 
  • Vermont Sexual Violence Hotline: 800-489-7273.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233.
  • If you’re unable to speak safely: Log onto thehotline.org, or text LOVEIS to 22522.
  • If you are in an emergency situation: Call 911.

CORRECTION 11:09 a.m. 3/27/20 This story initially mistated Kate Brayton's title. She is the director of victim services, not a victim services advocate for the Major Crimes Unit of the Vermont State Police.

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