"We're open. We're available. Please reach out."

Those words, spoken by Becky Smith of Violence Free Minnesota, are directed at survivors of domestic abuse.

With schools closed and many unable to work, for those who don't feel safe at home because of domestic violence, the coronavirus pandemic can be an even more difficult time. But resources are still available. 

Smith said the organization is concerned that those who need help may not reach out because they think domestic violence programs are closed. They are not.

"Domestic violence programs are an essential public safety service and we stay open," she said. "We are always open. We are always there to provide a safe place and to provide advocacy and to help provide people with options towards safety."

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While resources are still open, places that those survivors may have felt safe disclosing the abuse like at a doctor's appointment or school might not be. Smith said the statewide coalition is preparing for several different scenarios. 

In the coming weeks, Smith said they could see an increase in domestic violence calls because home is not a safe place for everyone.

"But we could also see a drop in domestic violence calls, which doesn't mean domestic violence isn't happening, but that survivors are unable to reach out," she said.

The Crime Victims Resource Center in Austin expected to see more calls during this time but that hasn't happened, according to Linnea Garness, a victim advocate.

"We are wondering if it because these people don’t have time alone, or they don't have a safe space to make those phone calls and reach out," Garness said.

In Austin, the Crime Victims Resource Center is still open for those who need help. Some functions have been modified, like regular crisis counseling being conducted over the phone, but Executive Director Tori Miller said they would have someone at the office during normal business hours to handle emergency situations.

The Women’s Shelter and Support Center in Rochester is open for those who need help. The nonprofit has made some modifications to services, but those in need are still able to find someone at the other end of the phone line if they call the 24-hour crisis line.

The shelter has made modifications to its housing situation to comply with CDC guidelines for social distancing. Jeannie Thompson, director of youth programming and community outreach, said they have not seen an increase in calls but that could change as more people are told to stay home from work.

"Do what you need to do to remain safe," she said. "Our 24-hour crisis line is available."

Smith said the statewide coalition also is also looking to put out information for the state's crisis numbers at places like grocery stores and pharmacies in an effort to reach those who may need it.

For people who are friends, family or colleagues of someone who they believe experiencing abuse, doing their best to remain in touch with that person is important, according to Smith. Whether that's through calls, texts, video chats or regular mail, it can have an impact.

"Reminding that person who is experiencing abuse that someone is thinking of them is very important," Smith said.

The Women’s Shelter and Support Center 24-hour crisis line: 507-285-1010

Minnesota Day One Crisis Line: 1-866-223-1111 by phone, or 612-399-9995 by text

Crime Victims Resource Center in Austin 24/7 line: 507-437-6680