Hotline (24/7) | 412-687-8005 Text Support (9am-9pm daily) | 412-744-8445

COVID-19 Response & Resources

The COVID-19 epidemic presents unique challenges for those affected by domestic violence (DV), service providers, and the community that supports us. This page will be updated with information about how Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh is responding to these challenges, as well as provide a clearinghouse for information on programs and services during the crisis, and how the community can continue to support our work.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) & COVID-19  
  • People are being asked to stay at home which can be the most dangerous place for domestic violence victims and their children.
  • In China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to one local police station tripled in February, compared to the same period the previous year.
  • External factors that add stress and financial strain can negatively impact survivors and create circumstances where their safety is further compromised. (thehotline.org) 
  • Having to stay in closer contact and proximity to their abusers takes away much of the power and resources that the victim can access
  • Having to practice social distancing and abiding by stay at home orders gives abusers more power and control over the victim. 
  • Having to stay at home could take away the usual supports that someone experiencing violence may typically have access to including: ability to contact hotlines, ability to contact trusted friends or family, interruption of escape plans, lack of alone time to reach out for help
  • Being asked to stay at home and the presence of a pandemic causing virus raise concerns of but not limited to: loss of employment, increase of threatening behavior (especially if the victim shows suspected symptoms of COVID-19), abusers withholding necessary items, not allowing access to necessary healthcare or medical attention, etc.
  • Abusers may use the virus as a scare tactic to keep closer control over victims and their children.
Child Abuse & COVID-19
  • High stress home environments have the potential to increase likelihood of domestic violence that the child may experience or observe.
  • During this time of crisis children are spending more time at home than usual. Like domestic violence, children could be experiencing an increase of violence in the home without access to their typical support systems (school counselors, teachers, friends, etc.)
  • Being able to provide normalcy for a child during a time of crisis may be even more difficult when a caregiver could be experiencing more food, housing, and financial insecurities and more stress than usual.
General Information on COVID-19

If you think you have been exposed to COVID‑19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Allegheny County Health Department

WC&S Info: DO YOU FEEL TRAPPED?

  • Have you experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse from your partner in the past but now it has gotten worse?  Are you feeling helpless and walking on eggshells?
  • Has your situation changed drastically due to COVID-19? Job loss, financial changes, children home from school that cause you to think you might need help?
  • Do you know of ways to keep yourself (and your children) safe if there is a violent or threatening incident? Have you thought about calling the police before and never did, but now you think you might have to? 
  • If it is difficult to speak on the phone, would it be helpful to know that you can reach out to the Women’s Center & Shelter through email, Facebook, Instagram for emotional support and information?

WAYS TO GET HELP

  • Call our 24-hour hotline at 412-687-8005.  If you fear for you and your children’s immediate safety, you can call 911.
  • WC&S has debuted two new ways to reach out for help: a text line and an online chat feature. The text line and online chat are all available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and both are free and confidential. If you are not able to talk on the phone, you can:
    • Text the number (412) 744-8445 and a WC&S Advocate will be standing by to assist.
    • Access the online chat by visiting the WC&S website and clicking on the Chat for Help pop-up button.
  • Click on the following to reach us on Facebook Messenger or Instagram or you can e-mail us at outreach@wcspittsburgh.org. You can leave a confidential message. Make sure to delete the message and erase your cookies on your end if your abuser monitors your devices. Please note that our Facebook, Instagram and outreach email address are monitored during normal business hours.
  • Go to the National Domestic Violence website https://www.thehotline.org/help/ and use the confidential CHAT option.

Information on Safety Planning

Safety Planning 101: A safety plan is a personalized and practical plan that can help survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) on how to interact when they are in danger from violence from their abuser. Every survivor’s safety plan is different.

COVID-19 Specific Safety Planning Suggestions: Taken from Sanctuary for Families (and adapted, in some cases, for local use):

  • Supplies, Food & Medication: 
    • Check your supplies and food. If you need food and do not have the money, check your local pantry, temple/church/mosque/etc., or other community organizations. Remember to keep your medication in the safest, easily accessible location in case of emergency. Call 211 for resources or information, or call the WC&S Hotline at 412-687-8005 to get connected to resources.
  • Emergency Bag: 
    • Pack an emergency bag with an extra set of keys, clothes for you and your children, a pay as you go cell phone, medications, copies of important documents, etc.   Keep the bag in a secure, private place.  Options include a safe place in your home, the trunk of your car, or with a trusted family member or friend.  Consider having a cover story prepared to explain the bag in case the abuser finds it.
    • Important Documents
      • Make copies or take pictures of your important documents for yourself and send them to a trusted friend or relative. Important documents may include IDs, social security cards, immigration documents, birth certificates, health insurance information, and Orders of Protection.  As mentioned earlier, be mindful of sending anything via phone or computer. Please use whatever method is safest for you.
  • Seeking Social Support
    • With social distancing and quarantining, survivors can feel even more isolated, and abusers may use further isolation as a power and control tactic. Identify trusted friends, relatives or even online support groups where you can still connect virtually.  If you have a friend who may be experiencing abuse, be sure to reach out to them even more during this time.
  • Staying Safe during COVID-19 from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
    • Practice self-care:
      • COVID-19 is causing uncertainty for many people, but getting through this time while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. Taking time for your health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel.
    • Reach out for help:
      • Even if you are isolated, try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so, and try to stick to your daily routines as much as possible.

Protection from Abuse (PFA) Procedures in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 Crisis – Updated 2/8/2021

A Judicial Emergency was declared on March 16, 2020 for the Allegheny County courts (Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania) due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The Judicial Emergency Court Orders have changed the Protection from Abuse (PFA) procedures in Allegheny County. Please click the above link and read the document in full if you have, are in the process of acquiring, or need a PFA.

Donating

Thank you for your interest in helping WC&S to continue serving survivors of domestic violence and their children during this difficult time and beyond. Your generosity is much appreciated now and always.

1. To assist with the increased demand for supplies and expanded services, make a secure, online donation or send a check made payable to Women’s Center & Shelter to: P.O. Box 9024 Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

2. Donate supplies such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, cleaning products or other items from our essential needs list for distribution to non-resident clients (those not currently staying in the Emergency Shelter). Or, consider donating gift cards.

3. Drop off or order a restaurant-prepared or catered meal for residents and children staying in the Emergency Shelter.

Please contact Jake at phillipsj@wcspittsburgh.org or (412) 687-8017 ext. 331 to discuss donating supplies, gift cards or food.

Other Ways to Help

1. Follow WC&S on our social media channels or sign up to receive our emails for the latest updates and news.

2. If you live within the City of Pittsburgh, download the Walking on Eggshells flyer and safely distribute in your local grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential businesses.

3. Call WC&S 24-Hour Hotline at 412-687-8005 and/or download the RUSafe app to assist a friend, family member or coworker who may be experiencing domestic violence and are unable to reach out for help. Please note that if the victim is in immediate danger, please call 911 immediately.

Do you use abuse or have controlling behaviors? Women’s Center & Shelter’s Battering Intervention Program offers counseling, education, and tools to help you understand and begin to change and gain control of your feelings. This program is focused on preventing future abuse; it is not intended as an intervention during an abusive episode. Call the WC&S MENS Program (Men Embracing Nonviolence and Safety) at (412) 687-8017 ext. 340 for guidance and more information. 

Check in with yourself: How do you act toward your partner?

Do you…

  • Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationships with others (friends, family, coworkers) and feel possessive?
  • Frequently call and text to check up on your partner, or have them check in with you?
  • Check up on your partner in different ways? (Ex. Reading their personal emails, checking their texts)
  • Feel like your partner needs to ask your permission to go out, get a job, go to school or spend time with others?
  • Get angry when your partner doesn’t act the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
  • Blame your anger on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s actions?
  • Find it very difficult to control your anger and calm down?
  • Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner, or actually physically doing so?
  • Express your anger verbally through raising your voice, name calling or using put-downs?
  • Forbid your partner from spending money, or require that they have an allowance and keep receipts of their spending?
  • Force or attempt to force your partner to be intimate with you?
  • Blow up in anger at small incidents or “mistakes” your partner makes?

How does your partner react?

Do they…

  • Seem nervous around you?
  • Seem afraid of you?
  • Cringe or move away from you when you’re angry?
  • Cry because of something you don’t let them do, or something you made them do?
  • Seem scared or unable to contradict you or speak up about something?
  • Restrict their own interaction with friends, coworkers or family in order to avoid displeasing you?

If any of these behaviors sound familiar to how you act or how your partner reacts, it could be a red flag that you may be hurting them. This can be a difficult and unnerving realization to come to. By acknowledging now that your behaviors might be questionable and taking responsibility for them, you’re a step ahead in beginning to correct them. Please call (412) 687-8017 extension 340.

Resources:

Help for Abusive Partners (The National Domestic Violence Hotline)

  • Try to establish some one on one time with your child(ren) – this can help the child to feel loved and secure in a time that is more uncertain
  • Implement structure and routine when possible – as children’s normal routine has been greatly affected, establishing routine can help the child to have a sense of normalcy and things that they can rely on when times are so uncertain 
  • Acknowledge that bad behavior will occur – we all are under a lot of stress and children often exhibit stress through ‘acting out’. Redirect children when misbehaving, take a moment to pause for yourself before reacting.
  • Talking to your kids using the Coronavirus comic
  • Tips and Infographics for Parents

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Maintaining good mental health is important in times of crisis. Below you will find tips on mindfulness and media compiled by our staff that is giving us hope, guidance and cause for optimism.

Mindfulness Tips:

  • Establish routine – Routine is essential in maintaining normalcy in uncertain times.
  • Set intentions – When you wake up, take some deep breaths and set an intention for the day; no matter how big or small setting an intention can help to keep you focused and positive!
  • Stay active, if possible – Take walks, stretch, or anything else that helps to get your body moving and loosen any anxiety you may be experiencing.
  • Simple meditation – Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your back supported by a chair. Take some deep breaths and notice how your body is feeling. Take notice of the sensations you are feeling and honor any tension or anxiety you may be holding.

Fear: How to Cope in Uncertain Times (from The One You Feed on Apple Podcasts)

Students sing together from home after coronavirus cancels concert (Chino Valley Unified School District, Chino, CA)

Coronavirus: A Time for Kindness

The Tonight Show: At Home Edition

15 heartwarming ways everyday heroes are helping people affected by coronavirus

Italians Making Music on Balconies Under Coronavirus Quarantine | The New Yorker

Random Acts of Kindness & Online Enrichment

Women’s Center & Shelter has partnered with several local media outlets so that those experiencing domestic violence are aware that help is always available through any of the DV programs, including WC&S.

Women’s Board of Pittsburgh raises $90,000 for children’s programs

Everyone and Anyone Can Experience Domestic Violence

‘Survivor-centered’: Intimate partner violence, sexual assault organizations forge ahead amidst pandemic

STANDING FIRM Helps Businesses Combat an Unseen Effect of COVID-19

‘A Pandemic Within A Pandemic:’ Domestic Violence Cases Rise During COVID-19 Pandemic

Domestic violence shelters see an uptick in calls, worry about dwindling funding

Williamson Provides A Gift That Keeps On Giving

Where to Give Hygiene Products in Pittsburgh

Local shelter receives grant for technology to help families experiencing homelessness (12:31 — 18:01)

A pandemic pause: COVID-19 creates vacancies at housing units designed for victims of domestic violence

Domestic violence victims suffer throughout county

Domestic Abuse Concerns Rise as the Pandemic Drags On

“R U Safe?” New app gives domestic violence victims resources, help in real time

Forging Forward: Safe Harbor for All

‘A pandemic inside of a pandemic’: Panel discusses domestic violence crisis

Squirrel Hill native offers help to members of LGBTQ+ community

Thanks To Her Dedication, Victims Who Felt Left Out Before Now Have A Voice

Domestic violence shelters are seeing call numbers return to normal after a drop at the onset of quarantine

Abuse hotlines light up after region’s move to green phase

Newsradio 1020 KDKA / Lynne Hayes-Freeland: Interview with Nicole Molinaro

What’s Good In Ya Hood: Giant Eagle Teams Up With Local Organizations To Help Victims Of Domestic Violence [VIDEO]

Women’s Center & Shelter provides additional resources for Pittsburgh-area victims during pandemic

Local Nonprofit, Giant Eagle Offering Help for Domestic Abuse Victims Stuck at Home (video)

Giant Eagle teams with domestic violence groups to raise help awareness during pandemic

Life Saving Information In An Unexpected Place: Grocery Chain And Non-Profits Team Up

The Ride Home (Thursday, May 7, 2020 Broadcast) – Interview with Nicole Molinaro

Confronting COVID-19 – Podcast interview with Nicole Molinaro on COVID’s impact on Domestic Violence

Abuse Hotlines See 50% Drop in Calls During Pandemic

‘Abuse Certainly Didn’t Stop’: Fewer People Calling for Help, but Services are Still Available

Editorial: In the Time of COVID-19, Here’s How You Can Help DV Victims

Stay-At-Home Orders Can Be Dangerous for Domestic Violence Victims

Police Report Increase in DV – Interview with Nicole Molinaro

Social Distancing Leading to Devastating Rise in Domestic Violence

Shelter in Place Doesn’t Help if You’re Living with an Abuser

Domestic Violence Threat Rises – Resources Available

WC&S Remains Open During Pandemic

Domestic Abuse Cases and Coronavirus Isolation

Let’s Do Lunch: Neighbors Support Those in Need and Local Businesses

Nonprofits Continue to Help Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault During Coronavirus Outbreak

Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh’s Refugee, Immigrant, and Limited-English (RIL) Team works specifically with immigrant and refugee survivors of intimate partner violence to ensure that their needs are being met regardless of their English language ability, nationality, or immigration status. Immigrants and refugees in the United States face compounding barriers to access services in which they are entitled.

Here at WC&S, we strive to mitigate those barriers in order to provide equitable services. If you’d like to talk more about your options, please call our 24/7 Hotline, which is available with phone interpretation in approximately 200 languages at (412) 687-8005.

If you are a service provider and would like for WC&S to mail you resources in other languages or you’d like more information about the RIL team, please contact Rebecca at rebeccag@wcspittsburgh.org.

Arabic
Burmese
Chinese
Dari
French
Nepali
Portuguese
Russian
Somali
Spanish
Swahili
Uzbek
Vietnamese

Español:

Français:

Videos: