October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the nonprofit RISE reminds people that help is a phone call away. 

“Just know that there is help, that they don’t have to go through this alone, there are options,” said Stacey Salome, RISE Director of Development and Marketing. RISE’s toll-free crisis line is staffed 24 hours a day — 855-886-RISE (7473). 

“What we want people to know this month is that we are here for them regardless of their circumstances and that we are a resource that is nonjudgemental that we will listen and can point them to options that may work for them,” she said.

The crisis line is not only for people currently experiencing violence. It’s for their friends, it’s for their family, it’s for anyone who feels like they need to provide support to someone in that circumstance, Salome added.

Salome said RISE has seen an increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said they have seen a 30 percent increase in calls for service over previous years.

“Because of all of the trauma related to COVID,” Salome said, “the stress on relationships right now, even healthy relationships, the stress is greater than normal. For us, as an organization, what we have seen is that we’ve had a pretty significant increase in calls to our crisis line.”

RISE’s tagline is Respect. Inspire. Support. Empower. Its vision is “a world free of sexual and intimate partner violence.”

The Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention Center of San Luis Obispo and the North County Women’s Shelter and Resource Center merged in 2013 to form RISE. SARP began as the Rape Crisis Center of SLO in 1975 and the NCWSRC was formed in 1982.

The agencies have decades of experience and provide the following services to those affected by intimate partner violence and sexual assault/abuse: 24-hour crisis line, crisis intervention, case management, restraining order assistance, accompaniment and advocacy, prevention education, two safe houses and individual and group counseling. 

All services are provided confidentially, free of charge, and in English and Spanish to anyone — regardless of age, sexuality, gender identity, race, class, or ability — who has been directly or indirectly impacted by intimate partner violence or sexual assault/abuse.

COVID-19 has led to isolation and people stuck at home with their abusers without access to the usual avenues for help or even the privacy to call a crisis line.

“Right now, people don’t have that same ability, and so we have seen that has impacted the amount of domestic violence happening, and just the isolation and the ease in which people are able to access our services is really concerning,” Salome said.

When people do call, Salome said listening is essential.

“We are going to understand what is happening with them,” Salome said. “These are each unique individual relationships.”

Often people will make the assumption, Salome said, that the person wants to leave or has to go.

“If that is what they want, we will help them facilitate that,” Salome said. “If, for whatever reason, they have concerns and they are not able to, we are not going to push them to do one thing or another. We are going to listen to what their circumstances are, what support they are needing and provide the resources that can help them with their unique needs.”

Safety is a priority, as well.

“When somebody leaves a violent relationship oftentimes that is the most dangerous time for them and what our line can provide as well is just safety planning,” Salome said.

Throughout the pandemic, RISE has continued its services, albeit with some shifting.

“We continued to have services available for survivors the whole time,” Salome said. “We have done a lot more virtual. Our staff went to working from home, except for our leadership staff and essential workers at the shelters.

“We have increased capacity with our therapy department. We have a few more therapists on board,” she added.

RISE is collaborating with Restorative Partners to promote education that ends domestic violence. They have held several events this month to support Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For more information on RISE, visit online riseslo.org or email contact@RISEslo.org.

Getting through this together, Atascadero