On Sept. 30, the Chicago Police Department’s 11th District, which includes West Garfield Park, West Humboldt Park and most of East Garfield Park, and the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney co-hosted an online webinar that focused on COVID-19 and domestic violence. 

Those who spoke during the webinar said that amid the pandemic, tempers are flaring in households, economic stresses are greater than ever and victims of domestic violence have fewer opportunities to leave the house. They said the pandemic is also making it harder to find shelters for abuse survivors, and, with nonprofits shifting their applications online, applying for help and support is harder as well. 

But during the course of the webinar, the speakers reassured residents that, in spite of all of those issues, help is available.

Aniela Tyksinski is a community advocate at Sarah’s Inn, a Forest Park-based organization that provides support for the survivors of the domestic violence, helping them safely leave an abusive situation and giving them access to housing and resources. 

She said the organization also provides classes that help perpetrators understand the harm they’ve done and take responsibility for it, teach them how to respond to stressful situations in better, “safer” ways and address their own issues. While most of the attendees of those classes are there because of court orders, Tyksinski said, the classes are open to anyone who wants to take them. 

The pandemic, Tyksinski explained, made the situation harder for Sarah’s Inn clients because people are facing more stress due to factors such as losing jobs, having to stay home and simply being around each other more. She said that contacting nonprofits like Sarah’s Inn is also harder, particularly in communities like the West Side, where households are less likely to have high-speed internet or a computer.

“That’s been a huge barrier, as many programs and intake applications went digital [during the pandemic],” Tyksinski said. 

Sarah’s Inn and the State’s Attorney both launched texting-based and e-mail based hotlines for residents who don’t have enough privacy to make phone calls.  

Tyksinski said residents’ problems are complicated by the fact that domestic violence shelters have to observe social distancing, so there is less space than ever, survivors with kids have to deal with limited daycare options, and the court system has slowed down, which means restraining orders and other legal processes take longer.  

“Right now, we are providing [services] remotely, as well as in-person, on a case-by-case basis,” Tyksinski said. 

Yesenia Rodriguez, the 11th District’s domestic violence officer, explained that the district has a domestic violence subcommittee that meets once a month, even amid the pandemic. 

“We provide awareness, prevention and resources to combat domestic violence,”she said. 

Rodriguez said that the subcommittee has been doing workshops on subjects such as domestic violence in teenage relationships, what healthy relationships look like and how to discipline children without crossing the line into child abuse. 

She said that the subcommittee will host a Take a Stand Against Domestic Violence walk on Oct. 14, at 10:00 a.m.. The walk will start and end at the Garfield Park Bandshell, which is located roughly in the middle of the section of the park, between Madison Street, Hamlin Avenue, Jackson Boulevard. and Central Park Avenue.  

For more information about domestic violence resources available during the pandemic, visit https://www.cookcountystatesattorney.org/community-resources-covid-19

Survivors of domestic violence can file emergency orders of protection at the Domestic Violence Courthouse, 555 W. Harrison St., according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.