Domestic violence is not a new evil. Its increased menace during the time of COVID-19 is.
According to Mary O’Doherty, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN), the global pandemic has not only cut into the funding streams that support her member organizations’ 57 shelters, but it has created a more dangerous environment for those who need help.
“During Ohio’s stay-at-home order, people couldn’t leave their houses. If you’re trapped at home with your abuser, how do you ask for help?” O’Doherty said. “People are spending more time at home during COVID-19 and often in stressful conditions. That’s a not a good situation for a domestic violence survivor still caught in an abusive environment.”
Social distancing restrictions have posed additional problems. Because many of ODVN’s residential spaces are older homes with tight, confined layouts, their capacity has taken a hit. In some cases, houses with, say, 10 beds can now serve only half that. As a result, it’s become even more urgent to move families into their own homes.
AEP Ohio’s $10,000 grant through the AEP Foundation will help combat this and other financial issues. The funds will provide emergency shelter assistance for survivors and their children, supporting immediate needs including relocation services, 14-day hotel stays, housing rental, groceries and transportation.
Like much of Appalachia, Gallia County in southeastern Ohio has increasingly struggled with poverty, crime and drugs – and the economic harm caused by the coronavirus hasn’t helped. It’s also an underserved area for the ODVN, which is why AEP Ohio honed in on this community. Our funds will be directed toward Square One, a brand-new shelter set to open in Gallipolis in October providing a safe and confidential space for victims in Gallia, Jackson and Meigs counties.
“We’re pretty excited about this new program opening up. Domestic violence is a real problem in southeastern Ohio – they just don’t have the social services that exist in other parts of the state,” O’Doherty said. “That’s why we very much appreciate AEP Ohio’s support. It’s critically important. These people need all the help they can get, and direct financial assistance really helps them start anew.”