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R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence sees continued spike in demand for services



If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who might be, or if you are looking for resources for a child who has witnessed domestic violence, call the Rhode Island statewide Helpline for 24-hour support and information at 800-494-8100.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) and its member agencies have seen a concerning spike in demand for services for victims of domestic abuse the past month, with emergency shelter and housing requests increasing. In some cases, this data represents nearly a nine-fold increase.

The RICADV saw a 40 percent increase in helpline/hotline calls this April, compared to April 2019. Housing remains the highest priority for survivors of violence in crisis. Without a safe place to go, survivors cannot begin to heal from the trauma they’ve endured.

See also: Why are domestic violence 911 calls going up but domestic violence arrests going down?

Of these calls in April 2020, 56 percent led to housing referrals – representing almost a nine-fold increase compared to April 2019. A total of 559 helpline/hotline callers requested emergency shelter. Finding a safe place to go has been a barrier for many victims and their children in their journey to safety, long before COVID-19, and these obstacles have been magnified by the current pandemic.

According to the 2019 National Network to End Domestic Violence National Census of Domestic Violence Services, which reports on services each domestic violence shelter provided within a 24-hour period, Rhode Island had 111 unmet requests for services in one day. Seventy percent of unmet requests for services – 78 of 111 – were for housing and emergency shelter. 

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The RICADV and its member agencies have collaborated with Governor Gina Raimondo to increase emergency shelter capacity, providing expanded temporary relief for victims of domestic violence. We are grateful to the governor and her team for working with us to meet survivors’ urgent needs during these unprecedented times. 

This expanded shelter service is a temporary solution for a long-term issue. We must invest in lifesaving programs for survivors of domestic violence and their families that provide safety and shelter to victims in their darkest hour. Along with emergency shelter needs, we must invest in long-term solutions that support survivors and their children to find and maintain a healthy and safe home, including rental subsidies, emergency rent and mortgage assistance. The RICADV has also continuously advocated to expand shelter capacity, and for more safe, healthy and affordable housing in Rhode Island, including a dedicated annual housing funding stream in the state budget. 

The court advocacy program, which supports survivors with domestic violence matters – including restraining orders – has seen a concerning 46 percent decrease in services provided in April 2020, compared to April 2019. Restraining orders are an important tool for survivors, and it is imperative these remain an accessible and safe option for victims. 

We want survivors of domestic violence and their families to know member agencies continue to provide court advocacy services. While not all courthouses are open, advocates at each member agency are working tirelessly to meet survivors’ needs, and domestic violence matters are being heard at the Noel Judicial Complex (Kent County) and Garrahy Judicial Complex (Providence). These courthouses are open for restraining orders, temporary restraining orders, criminal arraignments and emergency child custody interventions, and advocates can support survivors as they navigate the court process. 

How you can help:As relatives, friends, coworkers and neighbors, we can help keep victims and their children safe and prevent another tragedy. If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who might be, or if you are looking for resources for a child who has witnessed domestic violence, call the Rhode Island statewide Helpline for 24-hour support and information at 800-494-8100.

Calling 911 if you suspect or witness abuse is an important step to take, but there are many other ways to help. If you know or suspect someone in your life is a victim of domestic violence, you can help that person stay safe. Listen, and express your concerns without judgment. Ask the person what you can do for them, and check in consistently. Help the person create a plan that will keep them safe when abuse occurs, and connect them with local resources. Additional information can be found at

Tonya Harris is the Executive Firector of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV), an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. The RICADV was formed in 1979 to support and assist the domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island. The organization provides leadership to its member agencies, strives to create justice for victims, and raises awareness on the issue of domestic violence in Rhode Island. The RICADV's network of member agencies provides a wide array of services for victims, including emergency shelter, support groups, counseling services, and assistance with the legal system. For more information about these organizations and services, call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100.