Abuse amid the coronavirus crisis

Metro Creative

As the “Safer at Home” health order is extended to May 15, many Santa Clarita Valley residents are struggling to continue to remain indoors, especially those with abuse problems of any kind.

Jenny, a Castaic resident, has been a recovering alcoholic for a long time, and is used to going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“A really important thing with anyone who’s in a 12-step program is being able to do that, and not being able to do that has been a big adjustment,” she said. “Of all times you want to stay sober, there is no problem (like this pandemic) where taking a drink won’t make it worse for me, so those meetings are a critical part of my life.”

Though she’s not the most tech-savvy person, she took to the internet to find a replacement, discovering another group doing meetings via Zoom.

Santa Clarita resident and trauma expert Eric Christiansen suggests those with known issues do just that.

“We have to double down and find a new way of creating our recovery path,” Christiansen said, adding that he is in recovery from drugs and alcohol himself. “It’s very, very difficult for (those of) us that are already in recovery and have done something for many, many years that’s worked for us (to change that). And it can be recovery from anything … It’s all new territory.”

Monica Dedhia, program manager of access, crisis and community engagement at the Child & Family Center, agreed, adding, “There’s definitely a heightened level of anxiety and fear based off of everything that’s going on.”

The stressors associated with COVID-19 are adding to the challenges people are facing, “especially for our families that may have violence in the home. It’s harder now if you’re quarantined with the perpetrator or abuser,” Dedhia said.

“Now, we have an environment where we know that families are stressed out, even people that are doing great are stressed out,” added Ronald E. Brown, president and CEO at Children’s Bureau, a nonprofit leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in Southern California. “Anxiety, in particular, takes many forms, and for those families that don’t have the skill sets or the outlets to generate that energy in a different kind of way, (they) tend to and have historically, even in the best of times, taken it out on their children.”

The circumstances have created what Brown describes as the perfect storm, where not only is abuse happening, but now friends, family, educators, coworkers, etc., don’t have the ability to observe or infer that these things may be happening because of the “Safer at Home” order.

“I’m not advocating to change those orders, but what I am advocating for is that people connect to their neighbors, understand what they’re hearing or seeing,” Brown said. “It’s just about creating awareness out in the community … It’s almost like the best opportunity for us in this world as we’re living today is to just be cognizant of those around us and to really listen, connect and be an outlet and a caring neighbor for our community as a whole.”

While Christiansen agrees, he reinforced the idea that this is true for anyone struggling or simply feeling overwhelmed.

“Now is a good time to actually seek out help,” Christiansen added. “Be aware of your family, friends, neighbors and those around you, and reach out, not even just to ask for help, but to ask if they’re OK. If they say they’re not OK, then just listen — that’s all you’ve got to do … because that’s probably the most powerful thing you can do.”

Those who don’t feel comfortable reaching out to loved ones, neighbors or friends, can still access a number of resources, including both the Child & Family Center and Children’s Bureau.

Both organizations are providing families with teletherapy, videoconferencing, email and telephone services, while the Child & Family Center remains open for face-to-face services as well.

If you hear someone screaming or crying frequently or suspect they are being harmed in any way, they encourage you to call for help.

Hotlines (24/7 confidential):

  • Child Protection Hotline: 800-540-4000.
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (224453).
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233.
  • L.A. County Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-978-3600.
  • L.A. County Substance Use Disorder Hotline: 844-804-7500.
  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration Hotline: 800-662-HELP (4357).

However, if you feel that someone may have life-threatening concerns or feelings and are in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

The Child & Family Center is located at 21545 Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita. For more information, visit childfamilycenter.org or call 661-259-9439.

The Children’s Bureau office is located at 27200 Tourney Road, Suite 175, in Valencia. For more information, visit all4kids.org or call 661-705-4670.

Editor’s note: The name of the Castaic resident has been changed to protect her privacy.

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