I am surrounded by my family as we watch for news about the coronavirus and social distancing and symptoms and closures. As I write this, it feels safe inside – and looks lovely outside in the sun – while all the while a silent crisis is unfolding all around us. And that crisis is impacting some of our fellow citizens more than others.
It is times like these that really strip away any pretense of equity, justice, stability, or safety for those who have been pushed to the margins. Marginalized by racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, abuse or poverty – moving through the world on the very edge of survival. And when crisis hits society, it hits these folks the hardest.
Survivors who have struggled to manage the day to day patterns of abuse and survival are now faced with a changing landscape that can prove painful or deadly. With abusers home from work – or with survivors forced home from work – there is ever more opportunity for abuse. Loss of income, school closures, food insecurity, increased proximity and other stressors can interfere with the strategies survivors use to stay safe.
And what about the partners we have in this work? Faith communities are forced to close their physical spaces (even if the spiritual spaces are held open through technology like Facebook or skype). Therapists are trying out telemedicine tools – another reasonable accommodation. And our advocates – along with so many others – are working remotely. All part of our effort at social distancing. But when home is not a safe place, where does one go to seek solace by watching a sermon or speaking with a virtual resource?
At REACH, we embarked on updating our plan for continuity by starting with our values. This pandemic demands that we make changes. Our values state that we are all in this together – and we firmly believe that to be true. Strategies for slowing the spread (flattening the curve) only work if we all participate. As we are all in this together, how can we support our colleagues and our community as well as the survivors among us? And how can are care for ourselves and one another – especially during these fraught times – when social distancing requires such changes to our work? Because how we do our work matters. Being present for our colleagues, survivors and our communities is fundamental to our commitment. How can we reconcile it all?
We know that during this time, our work will have to look different. We will do our best to show up – however we can – for folks. Each of us will bring our skills and expertise (and healthy selves) to supporting the work happening in the moment. We are here to connect virtually and to help link folks to helpful resources.
Our office is closed, our hearts remain open.