Panel discusses how to help survivors of relationship violence during pandemic


As COVID-19 confines Vermonters to their homes, advocates say there still options for survivors of relationship violence to find safety and support.

On Thursday, a group of panelists held a virtual forum on the issue, including how victims and survivors can access resources and aid. Former State Representative Kesha Ram, a former advocate for Steps to End Domestic Violence, described how help is available.

“They might not be able to physically get to the legal clinic right now, they can do that through Zoom or other chat options,” Ram said. “They also have a chat box that you can access through the website to talk to someone via text.”

All Steps to End Domestic Violence services are free and confidential. Through the pandemic, they are still offering advocacy and safety planning by phone. Their hotline will remain open 24/7.

Other options that were widely utilized before the pandemic are still available, as Ram noted.

“I learned today you can still walk up to the police department if you can’t use the phone to call,” Ram said.

For many survivors, it may be difficult to access a Zoom forum to hear important information on resources. Ram and other panelists said that’s why it is important for all Vermonters to know how to help those who are impacted by relationship violence.

“The more you know, whether its watching something like this resource we created that will be available on CCTV, or just talking to them and then calling one of those hotlines to talk through the situation,” Ram said. “They might not have many phone calls they can make or very long that they feel safe enough to talk through some things with folks.”

Other panelists included Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George, Steps to End Domestic Violence Interim Director Ana Burke, Burlington Police Department Corporal Nikki Moyer, and PRIDE VT SafeSpace Anti-Violence Program Coordinator Anne Moyerbrailean.

Despite stay-at-home orders, the community has found a way to show solidarity. On Thursday evening, Hope Works Vermont held a virtual speak-out and candlelight vigil.

“It’s just a way to light a candle to think about people we lost, people who are going through something right now,” Ram said. “Think about yourself or others who have survived something really difficult, be proud of what you might be doing to keep yourself safe, to getting up every day and surviving.”

Steps to End Domestic Violence continues to operate their 24/7 hotline through the pandemic. It can be reached by calling (802)-658-1996.

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