Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services stay open for victims during stay-at-home orders

BY ISABELLE BRAUN

For people who experience domestic or sexual violence, the stay-at-home orders put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 have trapped them inside their homes and isolated them from the people and resources needed to help them. 

As the number of coronavirus cases throughout Kansas rises to above 900, Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services has started to see an increase in calls to their hotline number. 

“People are not sure whether or not they can leave because of the stay-at-home order,” Executive Director Jennifer Hecker said. “If people need to leave their homes to seek safety, they absolutely can. Our services are still here. We are still open. We want to make sure people understand we are still open, and they are allowed to leave their home. They do not have to stay in a home that is not safe.”

Options can be contacted at their hotline number 800-794-4624, but Hecker said victims who are concerned about abusers hearing them make a phone call can private message Options who will then work to figure out the best way to communicate back and forth.

“We’re looking at new kinds of technology, like a texting or digital messaging app,” Hecker said. “We’re really looking to some digital options, not only that we can use now, but in the future, so that if calling on the phone is not an option, we can silently text or message.”

Options offers a 24-hour safe shelter for victims and family members in danger, and they can take in overflow if the safehouse fills up. 

“We have a finite amount of money set aside for emergency accommodations, and that money is going fast,” Hecker said. “Fundraising is really important to us right now more than ever, so we can get people in a hotel, food and keep them in a hotel as long as we need to.”

With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Options organized the “What Were You Wearing” event, which is based on student-survivor descriptions of the clothes they were wearing during their sexual assault. To comply with state regulations, the display had to be moved online to Facebook.

The “What Were You Wearing” event organized by Options has been moved to Facebook during the Sexual Assault Awareness Month of April. Executive Director Jennifer Hecker said this event is also a fundraiser, which is very important to them right now as they work to keep people in their safehouse and in hotels away from abusive homes during the pandemic.

“The purpose of ‘What Were You Wearing’ is to break the myth that what a victim was wearing somehow incited a sexual assault,” Hecker said. “I don’t think that message itself is being lost. Our ‘What Were You Wearing’ posts are being shared a lot. We continue to see that grow, so this actually may reach more people than having the in-person event.

This event, along with the “100 Men” campaign planned for June, are both fundraisers, and during this time, Hecker said it’s especially important.  

“People are still donating to our shelter,” Hecker said. “We’re at our maximum capacity in our shelter so we’re disinfecting like crazy, and those supplies are just not out there. If people have toilet paper or disinfectant wipes, they are willing to donate, it would be great to keep our shelter running. I think in the coming weeks, I think we’re going to see an increase in our call volume as we get those messages out that we’re still here.”

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