The Mid-Shore Family Violence Center in Easton has received a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help domestic violence survivors and victims of sexual violence and trafficking with transitional other housing needs.

Escaping domestic violence and other toxic situations can be an arduous process for survivors. Housing, employment, transportation, finances and even internet connectivity are challenges in rural areas and small towns. The Mid-Shore Center is essential to helping survivors get out of abusive relationships both short- and long-term. The Easton group also helps victims of trafficking – a huge and under reported problem on the Eastern Shore and throughout the country.

The community – including the private sector – should rally around groups such as the Mid-Shore Center. They are helping our most vulnerable neighbors (including children).

We all know how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the economy, jobs and nonprofits who are often the backbones of our communities. These groups face more financial and operational challenges down the road as state and local budgets deal with the tough fiscal realities from the pandemic.

The social isolations stemming from the coronavirus along with its decimation of jobs have also threatened to make circumstances even tougher for those in toxic and abusive situations. This includes for children and teenagers stuck at home because schools are not reopened to in-person classes. Lost jobs and strained finances can magnify personal and family challenges including addiction, mental health and unfortunately abuse.

We know for some kids their only nutritious meals come from school. We also know schools and community centers can be a place of safety and refuge for children being abused or neglected. They can also be a place for them or an abused parent to come forward and get help. It is not as easy for teachers to spot situations that need to be reported via a Zoom class.

Public health is critical as we look at how and when to reopen the economy, schools and public life. But so are jobs, the survival of small businesses and other factors such as mental health and situations such as domestic violence.

We should keep those situations and what some of our neighbors must live through in mind as we traverse COVID and all its ramifications.

There have been efforts to better educate victims and the public at large about domestic violence, sexual violence and trafficking. Groups such as the Mid-Shore Center are on the frontlines of that effort and offer essential sources to women and children.

But more work needs to be done.

The statistics can be staggering. More than 5 million domestic violence incidents occur nationally each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC also reports one in four women and one in seven men experience some level of physical violence with a partner or spouse during their lifetime. One in three women and one in seven men experience some sort of sexual violence.

And we are not even getting into the horrific numbers related to trafficking or missing and abused children.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the economy have already made some mental health, addiction and domestic violence situations worse. Those societal problems have historically and culturally been swept under our collective rugs. They need to be out of the shadows and in the forefront more as we navigate the rest of 2020 and all its turmoil.

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