In times of high anxiety, there are certain portions of society which must keep functioning — and maybe even more than usual.
One of those is Mountain Crisis Services in Mariposa, which deals with victims of domestic violence.
“Our goal is to keep them safe and to be there,” said Kristen Fiester, director of programs for Mountain Crisis Services, noting how much uncertainty and anxiety exists during the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Fiester said victims of domestic violence are especially vulnerable at this time because people are being asked to stay in their homes. In many cases, victims remain with their spouses, some contemplating when or if to leave.
“We are trying to put the word out we are still continuing services because we know our domestic violence survivors are isolated right now,” said Fiester. “It’s all about power and control and it gives them (the abusers) more power to keep them isolated.”
Fiester said their 24 hour hotline remains up and running and that will not change. That number is (888) 966- 2350 or (209) 966-2350.
Fiester said though the counselors are now working from home, they are still keeping in close contact with victims of domestic abuse. Counselors are doing both phone and video contact with the victims.
She said Mountain Crisis is also still handling restraining orders and working with the courts when emergency protective orders are necessary.
“We have to be here for them,” said Fiester.
She also emphasized the emergency shelters are still “up and running” in the county which means if there are victims, they have a place to go to be safe.
“Our staff is checking on them and making sure they are okay,” said Fiester.
She called the “anxiety level” in society already “very high and now it is double. Our goal is to keep them safe and to be there.”
Fiester said she believes there is a “slight increase” right now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and “a lot of it is our existing clients are afraid of the unknown.”
Some of those clients, she stressed, remain living in a house where abuse is a constant threat. Many of those victims, she said, are “still developing their safety plan and know we are here if it’s safe for them to leave.”
Fiester also said community members should be observant if they see something out of place or out of the ordinary.
Maybe a neighbor is not coming out of their home whatsoever or there are signs somebody is being mistreated, she said. Those, and more, are reasons to raise concern.
Sometimes, said Fiester, it is “not safe” for someone to ask if they need help because it could lead to a more violent situation.
“It’s very sensitive and difficult,” said Fiester. “Be there for your friend or neighbor or family member.”
Because of the shelter in place order currently in place in California, Fiester said many victims of domestic abuse are even more isolated.
“Right now, a lot of survivors have lost that connection with their family members,” said Fiester.
That means having friends or others talk with them is crucial in such uncertain times.
She also stressed that if anyone believes there is physical violence taking place, the best thing someone can do is call 911 and report the incident.
“I always say, ‘Yes, if my neighbor is screaming, I would call 911,’” said Fiester.
Though staffing is scattered and there remain a lot of unknowns, Fiester said Mountain Crisis Services remains able to serve all victims of domestic violence.
“We are in a good place,” said Fiester. “We have very good community partners.”
She also said if there is domestic violence, the processes remain in place for the victims. That includes transportation to Clovis where they can be checked by medical professionals if they have been a victim of rape.
“The center is still open, but they are being very cautious,” said Fiester.
Even with all of that, Fiester said Mountain Crisis Services is operating and helping everyone who reaches out.
“We are continuing our services,” she said. “We can respond to calls.”