While the 2020 stay-at-home order designed to stop the spread of the corona-virus is known to have flattened the infection curve and saved countless lives, sadly that same life-saving order may actually be making violence in homes more frequent and severe, putting those lives at risk. Crisis response, resources and support groups are harder to access when victims are stuck at home with their abuser. However, organizations such as Prevail are continuing to serve victims of violent crime through the pandemic – and they’re able to do some of that work through an emergency grant provided to them by Women’s Fund of Central Indiana.

Prevail has been serving the community as an advocate for victims of crime and abuse in Hamilton and surrounding counties since 1986. While first established to serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, their services have grown over time to now serve victims of other crimes, including stalking, robbery, home invasion, and family members of homicide victims, among others. Prevail works with individuals and families, including kids, teens, and adults who have experienced trauma.

Today, Prevail recognizes that trauma may look different given the pandemic – both physically and emotionally. Traumatic stress, loss of job and money, and increased substance use can lead to abusers becoming even more violent or even pushing someone who wasn’t previously physically violent to become so. Prevail has found ways with technology to stay in touch with clients and neighbors in need.

“We recognize that now more than ever people are anxious, upset, and fearful, and it is incumbent upon us to recognize that and be available to provide help,” said Susan Ferguson, Executive Director, Prevail. “Individuals are less able to connect to the kind of formal help that they need, and it’s harder to know if someone is struggling during this time of social distancing. We’re relying on technology and regular communication with our clients to understand what’s happening behind their closed doors.”

When Prevail recognized the urgent need for technology upgrades and investments, Women’s Fund responded with a $3,715 emergency grant to help support staff who are now providing virtual technology services. Susan was able to use the funds to transition normal in-person services to phone services, invest in increased broadband access, and provide staff with a stipend to equip their home offices with the necessary tools to help them be successful in their jobs at home.

“At Prevail, we’re all about empowerment and connection, and right now people who are experiencing trauma are experiencing disempowerment and disconnection,” said Susan. “The ability to connect with clients through advanced technology really makes an incredible difference. We’re able to continue to honor the services we provide every day, just in a different way.”

As an advocate for victims of crime and abuse, Susan wanted to remind readers that we should all take on the important responsibility of watching out for our neighbors. “Bruises aren’t the only signs of violence – a change in behavior can also be an indicator that something is not right,” shared Susan. “I believe everyone knows someone who is a victim, so it’s important to know that these services exist and are available 24/7.”

Susan and her team were able to keep their 24-hour crisis line staffed and maintained, move all of their individual meetings to phone meetings, and honor the safety issues and concerns of their clients through constant communication during the stay-at-home order. That’s something she’s very proud of.

Susan referred to a quote by Mr. Rogers: “When bad things happen, look for the helpers.” 

“I have an incredible team of helpers who have inspired me every day by their desire to make this work under unusual conditions,” said Susan. “I’ve also been inspired by the community coming together and wanting to help. We’ll get through this together.”

If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation and need to speak to an advocate, call Prevail’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 317-776-3472.