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The Phoenix Center at Auraria moves its services online

As the COVID-19 crisis increases instances of interpersonal violence, the center remains dedicated to keeping our tri-institutional community safe.

By Lindsey Coulter

April 13, 2020

The Phoenix Center at Auraria logoThe COVID-19 pandemic affects Roadrunners and our larger community in many ways. For people experiencing quarantine in unsafe or abusive situations, the Phoenix Center at Auraria can help.

“We are dedicated to eradicating violence and making sure our campus community knows that if they are experiencing interpersonal violence, they are not alone and we are here to help,” said Katherine Miller, advocacy-services program manager.

To that end, the Phoenix Center at Auraria is offering virtual workshops and trainings for students and employees on topics such as interpersonal violence, bystander intervention, gender construction, sex education, healthy relationships and supporting survivors.

The Early Bird spoke with Miller about why public-health crises put people at greater risk for violence and how the Phoenix Center at Auraria can help.

Why do quarantine situations tend to increase instances of interpersonal violence?

Disasters are a complete disruption of routine. They create intense feelings of loss of control and stability, and that is certainly a catalyst for increased violence.

Disasters also disproportionately impact marginalized groups and cause additional layers of vulnerability (including increased risks of violence) due to things such as loss of housing, loss of income and need for financial assistance. The longer a disaster lasts, the greater the risk for and impact of violence.

Quarantine and shelter-in-place regulations also limit movement outside of the home, and that increased proximity is a risk factor for those experiencing violence by someone they live with. Now there are increased feelings of isolation, which is already an exceptionally common tactic of abuse, power and control. If survivors were engaging in services prior to lockdown, they may not be able to do so now. For example, how do you have a virtual counseling appointment with your therapist when the person causing you harm is nearby? How do you call a help line if you are now constantly being monitored and are never alone?

We are also seeing increased violence through technology because that may be the only method someone has to exert power and control. What we often see with this form of violence is people being cut off from supports, which is more dire now because technology is our only form of communication with not just family and friends but also professionally and educationally.

What support can you provide for those experiencing violence?

The PCA is a tri-institutional office serving all students, faculty and staff on the Auraria Campus experiencing and/or impacted by interpersonal violence, which encompasses relationship violence, sexual violence and stalking. We are continuing to provide advocacy services remotely Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. through phone calls or Zoom.

Advocacy is about providing nonjudgmental and survivor-centered support, exploring all the options available to survivors and assisting with navigating those options collaboratively. That includes immediate crisis intervention; emotional support; safety planning; assistance to access emergency funding or getting into a shelter; information on protection orders, reporting options and legal services; academic advocacy with faculty and university systems; and resource and referral coordination as needed.

Our 24/7 help line (303-556-2255) also continues to be fully operational. That means our office is accessible every day, at any time, and you do not need to be in crisis to call. One service we currently cannot offer is accompaniment to court and/or police reporting.

If someone is concerned for their safety, how can they reach out?

We encourage survivors to reach out in the way that is best and most safe for them. They can call the help line anytime to speak with an advocate (and be completely anonymous if they choose), they can schedule appointments on our website, and they can email or call any staff member directly through our contact information on the website. We are 100% free and confidential.

Our website has a lot of informational content as well, which can be helpful if someone is not ready or able to speak with an advocate but wants more information about power and control, the cycle of violence and resources available. If none of those options seems viable, we have Facebook and Instagram accounts that may help survivors feel more connected — and also have lots of pictures of cute animals.

If someone is concerned for a friend or loved one, can they contact you on that person’s behalf?

Absolutely. We talk to a lot of folks about how to support survivors. This also includes helping faculty and staff to support students and colleagues.

With that said, we don’t give advice on how to make someone leave an abusive situation or report to authorities; that will always be at the discretion of the person experiencing violence. They are the experts on their situations and what will be best for them moment to moment.

Additionally, we offer a 1.5- to 2-hour training on responding to disclosures and responding empathetically and in a trauma-sensitive manner to survivors of interpersonal violence. We are offering that training virtually for faculty and staff if they would like to schedule a session. Employees can request a workshop/training through the Phoenix Center at Auraria website or by contacting Em Alves, violence-prevention education coordinator.

Topics: Health, Mental Health, Safety

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