By Liliana Ulloa Santos (She/They)
While most feel inconvenienced by never-ending stay-at-home orders, those inconveniences include being in quarantine with their domestic abuser for many Long Beach residents.
Trapped in the dispiriting cycle of abuse is debilitating on its own, but experiencing the various forms of abuse during a global pandemic could make victims feel hopeless with no end in sight. But if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed through the pandemic, it’s the commitment by the WomenShelter of Long Beach (WSLB) to provide resources and support to victims of domestic abuse.
Amidst mandatory lockdown in attempts to reduce the relentless spread of COVID-19, domestic violence cases project to rise as victims of abuse endure more time at home with an abuser. While recognizing the abuse can often take years, asking for help when ready is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the process and the most dangerous for the victim. In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, most men who murdered their partners confessed either threat of separation made by the victims or actual separations were the leading cause of the homicide.
In efforts to assist in a safe transition out of an abusive setting, the WomenShelter of Long Beach offers help through domestic violence advocates to organize an exit strategy and provide emergency shelter if necessary.
In the intake process, victims must undergo a COVID-19 test and quarantine in their rooms until negative results are confirmed. Once in the shelter’s safety, domestic violence advocates will locate proper housing and connect victims to appropriate resources catered to their specific situation.
“We provide services either at our supportive housing facilities or at our domestic violence resource center,” Executive Director Mary Ellen Mitchell said. “Both being essential businesses, we are open completely. The services through our resource center are being provided mostly remotely, virtually, through Zoom and other platforms, but we’re still seeing clients and doing group or individual counseling sessions, and we’re providing other resources such as health education or legal advocacy. Whatever the client needs, we do our best to find the best resources for them.”
Due to a decrease in funding, the WomenShelter of Long Beach heavily relies on donations from the community and collaborations with other local organizations to continue to provide resources to those in desperate need of a safe space and rehabilitation from domestic abuse.
“It takes a community to support an organization such as ourselves, any non-profit charity organization,” Mitchell said. “I have found over the years that our community is very generous and very concerned and wants to help the best they can, and we appreciate that more than anything.”
The WomenShelter of Long Beach provides resources to help the emotional and mental trauma of domestic abuse and give the families clothes, sanitary items, groceries, and even gifts during the holiday season. Because abuse victims often also deal with financial abuse, leaving their abuser leaves them with just the clothes on their backs and barely can make ends meet as they adjust to their new life.
“A lot of our clients have been affected by the pandemic or (are) out of work or looking for work, so food is high on the list, blankets, socks. Clothing, pretty much anything you may think a person needs. The best way would be to donate to us and through our website. Through the website, you can print out a donation form, and that is the most helpful thing for us right now,” said Mitchell.
Besides donations, Mitchell urges the community to make the most significant possible effort to help domestic abuse victims. SPEAK UP. Believe victims. Call out the abuse.
“If you see something, say something!” Mitchell urged. “If you see a situation that just doesn’t look right, and somebody that needs help, just say something! Try not to stay silent when you see abuse happen.”
The majority of the community often expresses condemnation against abusers yet many also seem to put an exception when that abuser turns out to be a friend, a family member, or their favorite musician. In multiple instances, people rush to comment sections on social media “call outs” of the abusers to make claims such as “there are two sides to every story,” to “get all the facts straight first,” or simply to accuse the victim of lying.
The WomenShelter of Long Beach implores the community to hold abusers responsible and call them out for all their faults, so they too can seek the proper help to be better assets to the community.
“Sometimes they don’t quite realize what they’re doing; it takes someone to speak out and point it out to them,” Mitchell explained. “Like ‘hey, that’s abuse.’ Sometimes they just don’t realize it. That’s why I think it’s important to say something and hold them immediately responsible.”
Other times the community turns the blind eye with a “Well, it’s none of my business,” approach. In some instances, cries of help pierce through building walls as neighbors shrug them off, dismissing them as just “family matters”. Others cross to the other side of the sidewalk when they see a physical altercation taking place, far too preoccupied with reaching their destination drama-free to get involved.
When events like this can occur in broad daylight, or when multiple people still flood social media comment sections to protect abusers, it IS the community’s business.
The WomenShelter also offers aid to male victims, who receive the same services as women, only in individual counseling instead of in a group. The inclusive organization also houses anyone under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, as domestic abuse does not discriminate on sexuality or gender.
If you or someone you care for has been a victim of domestic violence, whether physical, emotional, or financial, the WomenShelter of Long Beach can provide group support sessions and individual counseling to recognize red flags better and treat the trauma. Their Youth programs also serve as preventative efforts for children who witnessed abuse to find proper coping mechanisms to a conflict that doesn’t revolve around violence.
“The reason kids come here is that they’ve witnessed domestic violence with a parent or both parents, and it has a huge effect on them, especially down the road,” Mitchell said. “Our goal is to reach them when they’re young so they can understand what they’ve been through and the effect it may have on them and try to help them get in the right direction and not repeat the violence. It’s so important to reach kids early and teach them to understand better different ways to handle conflict and confrontation.”
To be a better community, not only is it our duty to call out abuse as we see it but to be allies in helping those in the community out of abusive spaces in the safest way possible. By taking steps to offer help to adult victims and children, The WomenShelter of Long Beach helps us gather the resources to better our community and grow together for a less violent future.
If you need immediate assistance, including safe housing, please call their 24-hour confidential hotline at 562-437-4663 (562-437-HOME) to speak to one of their trained domestic violence advocates. Call the Domestic Violence Resource Center at 562-437-7233 if you require counseling, referrals, and help leaving an abusive relationship or have already escaped.
All WomenShelter of Long Beach services are inclusive: all domestic violence victims, including women, men, teens, children, and individuals in same-sex relationships, are welcome at the WSLB.
Services are available in English and Spanish.
Liliana Ulloa Santos (She/They) is a resilient mother of color. Journalist. Makeup Artist. Sex Worker. Not necessarily an expert on any subject, but instead, serves as a human version of random Snapple facts. A versatile writer, Ulloa’s passions range from sports journalism to advocacy for marginalized minorities. In their free time, Ulloa enjoys experimenting with makeup and obsessing over creating a five-star island on Animal Crossing.