When Home Isn’t Safe: COVID-19 and Interpersonal Violence

This is an unprecedented time for all of us. Uncertainty is rampant and public health officials are all recommending we engage in social distancing. For some folks, social distancing might not look much different than their normal weekend routine: pajamas all day, netflix, and lots of chill time. But for some of the most vulnerable, social distancing can be challenging and even dangerous.

Folks who are experiencing or have experienced gender-based violence (sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking) might be feeling increased isolation and loss of control during this time where answers are limited and the advice to stay home is unanimous. When power and control are the root causes of violence, and isolation is a key tactic of abuse, this time can be triggering for folks who already have experienced these things at the hands of an abuser. Even more, some folks who are being encouraged to stay home might currently be in an abusive relationship with a domestic partner, roommate, family member, or other person at their home.

For this reason, home might not be the safest place for all of our community members.

While this is our reality and is important to name, advocates and staff at UNC-CH are working tirelessly to make sure that our community has the resources and support that it needs during this pandemic.

You are not alone.

From university resources to state and national resources, we are here to support our most vulnerable and to specifically address the unique challenges that survivors of Gender-based violence will be facing during the era of COVID-19.

Let’s start with University resources. While classes have been moved to virtual platforms, campus staff are also hard at work to find creative ways to make our unique services and resources available for our community.

University Resources:

  • The Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSC):  meeting with folks via phone or secure video chat. To schedule a time to connect with Holly or Kayla you can email them at gvsc@unc.edu (Confidential Resource)
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): you can connect with CAPS via their 24/7 hotline at 919-966-3658 (Confidential Resource)
  • Campus Health: open for students and specifically still providing care for SANE exams – call 919-966-2281 (Confidential Resource)
  • Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office: our Report and Response Coordinators, who are the intake specialists for our Title IX office are still meeting with individuals remotely. To schedule a time to connect with Rebecca, Ew, or Kathryn email: reportandresponse@unc.edu  (Private Resource)

Local Resources:

National Resources:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 24/7, confidential and free: 1-800-799-7233 and through chat.
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 24/7, confidential and free: 800.656.HOPE (4673) and through chat.
  • The StrongHearts Native Helpline for domestic/sexual violence is available 7am-10pm CT, confidential, and specifically for Native communities: 1−844-762-8483
  • The Trans LifeLine for peer support for trans folks 9am-3am CT: 1-877-565-8860 This hotline is staffed exclusively by trans operators is the only crisis line with a policy against non-consensual active rescue.
  • National Parent Helpline Monday -Friday 12pm-9am CT emotional support and advocacy for parents: 1-855-427-2736


Beyond resources, we want to also provide some guidance for folks who are feeling like their home is not the safest place for them right now. As some states and cities move to require folks to shelter in place, we are aware that this might create additional difficulties and risks for survivors. Here are some things to think through if we receive “shelter in place” guidance from State or local authorities.

If home is not a safe place for you, are there other friends or family you could stay with during this time? Consider reaching out to these people to make a plan:

  • Consider reaching out to a trusted friend, co-worker, or family member who could check in with you about your safety and support needs. If you need help identifying support people in your life, take a look at the pod mapping worksheet from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective.
  • Are you connected with close friends or family members of the person who is hurting you? Are they aware of what is happening or are they a safe person to reach out to? Consider connecting with them now in case you need someone to help you in an emergency.

We’ve pulled this list from Futures Without Violence. Check out their page to learn more.

The Gender Violence Services Coordinators offer safety planning as part of their support, so this might be an option for folks who are concerned about their safety in their place of residence.

Overall, know that you are not alone in this. Our community is rallying in amazing ways and coming together to support the most vulnerable among us. If you have needs yourself or are looking out for a friend, please take the proactive step of reaching out to any of these resources!

As activist and amazing human Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”


This blog was written by Viviane Linos, Interpersonal Violence Prevention Programs Coordinator. With a focus on addressing root causes of violence and creating lasting cultural change, Viviane has dedicated the past 6 years to efforts in the professional, scholarly, and advocacy realms of violence prevention.  Receiving her bachelors in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from Butler University in Indianapolis and then her Masters in Women and Gender Studies from Arizona State University, she has a unique theoretical perspective which she brings to the Student Wellness team at Carolina.

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