FILE — Standing in front of youth-written message boards, a YWCA coordinator encourages friends and family to start a conversation around safe and secure relationships Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Yakima, Wash. The message boards include statements about healthy relationships, boundaries, consent and more.

As stay-at-home orders are enacted and extended to combat the spread of the coronavirus, people living with domestic abuse are becoming more isolated and may feel there’s no place to turn.

With many people home together around the clock for what could be several more weeks, abusers are asserting more control over their partners and any children or other relatives in the home, and monitoring their activities even more closely, said Cheri Kilty, executive director of YWCA Yakima.

“With money and resources tightening up, those experiencing abuse will be walking even more on eggshells, afraid of what will happen next,” she said in an email. “People are concerned how long school will be out. How long will jobs be impacted.”

Both YWCA Yakima and The Lighthouse — Advocacy, Prevention and Education Center in Sunnyside continue to serve Yakima County, including the Yakama Reservation. They offer support and assistance to those dealing with domestic violence.

Kilty and Leticia Garcia, executive director of The Lighthouse, emphasized that the agencies are still providing services by phone and strongly encouraged those needing help or advice to call their 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotlines.

“If people need to talk to someone about abuse, we are still available 24 hours a day and can bring someone into shelter if that’s needed,” Kilty said, and services are always confidential. “Most of our legal advocacy work is being done over the phone since the courts also have limitations on their work.”

The nonprofits have made some changes with the health and safety of residents and staff in mind. The YWCA closed its office to the public more than two weeks ago, Kilty said, along with suspending its in-person community outreach and support groups. The Lighthouse, which provides support and services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, has suspended all support groups, outreach and prevention services until April 24.

Domestic violence and stress

Domestic violence increases in times of stress. People are scared and not sure if they can get away from their situation.

Abuse is about power and control, notes information on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website. When survivors must stay home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, the abuser can use any tool to exert control over their victim, including a national health concern such as COVID-19.

YWCA Yakima is getting a steady number of calls for help, but staff haven’t seen an increase in families wanting shelter, Kilty said.

“We do anticipate this will change the longer this shelter at home is in place. If someone needs shelter, we should be able to help them,” she added.

It’s similar for The Lighthouse, where calls come in every day as people continue to reach out for help, Garcia said.

“We are closed to the public, but folks can still call us 24 hours a day, seven days per week. ... Advocates are available and providing services by phone.


As with YWCA Yakima, donations of personal hygiene products and monetary donations to The Lighthouse are always welcome. Those who want more information about donating to The Lighthouse should email Garcia at lgarcia@lvcss.org or call 509-837-6689. Call YWCA Yakima at 509-248-7796 and select 3.

They are among many nonprofits forced to cancel or postpone important fundraisers because of the novel coronavirus. YWCA Yakima’s sold-out Leadership Luncheon, set for April 20 to feature domestic violence activist Dave Navarro, has been postponed. No new date has been announced.

The Lighthouse has postponed its popular Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, which had been set for April 25. Organizers will announce another date “once we know when it is safe for us to hold this event,” Garcia said.

“We want to do our part to ensure everyone stays healthy and safe,” she said.

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