When it comes to domestic violence, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. Thanks in large part to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, the nonprofit Center for Community Solutions has been able to maintain its bevy of intervention and prevention services for victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

“At first, no one knew how long the COVID-19 crisis would last, and we had concerns about how survivors would be able to reach out for help safely. During the pandemic, some people were asked to shelter in place with those who were harming them, and the initial drop in hotline calls caused a lot of concern about that,” explained Verna Griffin-Tabor, CEO for an organization that provides services countywide. “When things continued much longer than expected, people were in more crisis.”

The pandemic, she said, soon resulted in a 64 percent spike in calls to the nonprofit’s hotline. “It wasn’t just the number of calls that increased. The intensity of the calls also went up, and we had to meet increased need with fewer resources,” said Griffin-Tabor.

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund provided a $100,000 Center for Community Solutions grant in spring of 2020 and an additional $25,000 grant in September, a critical infusion for an organization that lost approximately $500,000 in revenue during the pandemic because of cancelled fundraising events.

Established more than half a century ago, the Center for Community Solutions operates the Rape Crisis Center for the County of San Diego and runs two long-term and two short-term domestic violence shelters. The Center also provides emergency motel and food vouchers, not to mention supportive services such as counseling, legal advocacy, help with restraining orders and guidance in filing for custody.

Some 300 women and children are placed in its shelters annually.

“My family and I received more than I ever expected when coming to CCS,” said one survivor who found safety at a shelter. “I received counseling for myself, special therapy for my daughter, guidance with literally every issue that arose, a very amazing safe place with an actual compassionate staff who care a lot, they helped me find job, food if needed, and kept me accountable on all levels! CCS had not only saved me from a very abusive situation but they gave me my life back, my sense of financial freedom back, restored my self-esteem and set me on a new journey ahead. This has been the best decision of my life. My advocate went above and beyond for me and has helped me grow into a responsible adult again after I lost everything.”

Too many victims are finding themselves in need of similar intervention. The New England Journal of Medicine noted in a recent article titled “A Pandemic within a Pandemic – Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19” that intimate partner violence has a disproportionate effect on communities of color and other marginalized groups. “Economic instability, unsafe housing, neighborhood violence, and lack of safe and stable child care and social support can worsen already tenuous situations.” Indeed, the Victim Assistance Program at the District Attorney’s office served 2,940 victims from March through July 2020, compared to 1,941 in 2019, a 51% increase.

Increases have occurred because victims have found it more difficult to find safety. “Marianne was secretly working on a ‘safety plan’ when the pandemic dismantled all of her hard work,” said one Center for Community Solutions staffer, referring to a desperate client. “Once stay-at-home orders went into effect, her abuser was working from home and now monitoring all of her daytime activities. This included intercepting her SSDI mail and withholding documents so that she could not transfer the savings for her escape.”

Seeded with $1.25 million from The San Diego Foundation and $1 million from SDG&E, the COVID-19 Community Response Fund has raised $66 million to date and provided approximately $58 million to over 200 area nonprofit partners such as the Center for Community Solutions. Nonprofit professionals say their organizations would no longer be able to provide critical services to society’s most vulnerable if not for the emergency grants.

All essential Center for Community Solutions services have continued without interruption through the pandemic.

“We have stayed fully operational because of our talented staff and committed funders, and we are inspired by the courage and healing we see every day in the survivors we serve,” Griffin-Tabor said. “This is how we know there is every reason to be hopeful for brighter days for all of us.”

You can help those impacted by the pandemic by donating to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund today.