READING, Pa. – Being told to isolate, self-quarantine and distance yourself from others in the wake of a global health crisis means resources for our most vulnerable populations are "absolutely critical," said Beth Garrigan, chief operations officer of Safe Berks.
Garrigan speaks on behalf of those working around the clock at Safe Berks to ensure victims of domestic violence and sexual assault know that a dire situation, made worse by the stresses of COVID-19, doesn't have to be ignored.
"The loss of income, the loss of employment, fears about access to food and medical care – all of those things make this an even more stressful situation for them," Garrigan said.
And in times of great stress, Garrigan said, bad things can happen, especially when victims already feel stuck.
"They are now at home and unable to get out, so they have more chance of being left inside with their abusers," Garrigan said.
Although Safe Berks is making some temporary changes to its operations, it's still there for anyone in need with a 24/7 hotline and a text-messaging service.
"Reach out to us," Garrigan said. "We are available 24/7. Our staff is there. We're here to help."
Those lines are available in English and Spanish. The 24-hour hotline can be reached at 844-789-SAFE (7233) or by texting SAFE BERKS to 20121.
Crisis services, including requests for shelter or medical advocacy, will flow through the hotline and text line. Safe Berks will continue to provide free, confidential services to local survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault 24 hours each day.
Anyone in immediate danger should call 911.
Garrigan also encourages everyone to be on the lookout for friends and loved ones who may be suffering and to reach out if need be.
"Even with social distancing, the virtual reach-out can save a life," Garrigan said.
Safe Berks is in need of donations. Officials are looking for hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and gift cards to grocery stores to give to clients and residents.