UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Movement restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have increased domestic abuse concerns worldwide. According to statistics released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, calls within the United States were up nearly 10% during the spring of 2020 as a direct result of pandemic circumstances.
Dating and domestic abuse is not limited to romantic partners and can include emotional, physical, economic, sexual and other forms of mistreatment and abuse imposed by family members, or others who are in close contact with the victim. Isolation and other factors may also make it more difficult for the victim to report abuse, or to find a safe space to initiate help away from their abuser.
To protect and support victims and survivors of mistreatment and abuse, a collection of Penn State advocacy and support offices, including the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response (OSMPR), Gender Equity Center, and Counseling and Psychological Services, has created the Victim & Survivor Support and Advocacy web resource, which aims to help students recognize and identify domestic abuse concerns and provide information and resources for support.
“As many students take classes remotely this fall, they may find themselves in environments with individuals with whom they have unhealthy relationships,” said Amy Cotner, assistant director of Commonwealth Campuses and intake, OSMPR. “If students find themselves in these environments, anywhere on or off-campus, it is important that they are aware of the people and resources within the University who are available help them navigate their situation.”
The Victim & Survivor Support and Advocacy web resource provides a list of local and national resources to assist students no matter where they are living. The site also features information on how students can initiate support and includes a list of apps and resources available 24/7. One of those resources is ReachOutEditions, an app launched with support from the Gender Equity Center this fall. The app connects users with professionals immediately, and provides students with step-by-step follow-up information that is specific to Penn State in an effort to begin their healing journey.
Students are reminded that no matter the circumstances, victims are not to blame for mistreatment or abuse. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating or relationship violence, stalking, or sexual exploitation, the University urges you reach out to get the help you deserve.