As stay-at-home orders were implemented across the nation, victims of domestic violence potentially isolated with their abusers have been on the minds of the advocates who support them, as well as others.

Safe Haven Executive Director Brittany Robb and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar held a news conference in Duluth on Tuesday to bring attention not only to these sometimes-forgotten victims, but also to The Heroes Act. The bill, among other purposes, would provide funding during the COVID-19 pandemic to local governments and organizations such as Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center that offer victim services.

The Heroes Act passed the House by a vote of 208-199 on May 15. Klobuchar said lawmakers are currently working to get it introduced on the Senate floor with the hope it will pass and then be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The act allocates $100 million for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs, $15 million of which would be used for transitional housing assistance grants for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual assault. Another $10 million is specifically designated for rural areas across the nation for domestic violence and child abuse enforcement assistance grants.

“One of the good things about The Heroes Act is that it includes midsize cities like Duluth and smaller cities,” Klobuchar said. “It’s not just about the big cities.”

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Executive director of Safe Haven Duluth, Brittany Robb, wear a protective mask while listening to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar during a press conference Tuesday about domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Executive director of Safe Haven Duluth, Brittany Robb, wear a protective mask while listening to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar during a press conference Tuesday about domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order took effect March 27 and was lifted May 17. Robb said between March 15 and April 15, Safe Haven had an 11% spike in callers seeking support for immediate needs surrounding safety planning as they realized impending danger during the order.

“These calls between survivors and our advocacy team were focused on how to strategize within the parameters of their current situations, as well as to move survivors and their children as swiftly as possible out of their homes and into safe shelter either with us or with our sister programs throughout the state,” she said.

Robb said after the stay-at-home order had been in place for about three weeks, Safe Haven saw a 60% decrease in calls. She said this was even more concerning.

“This clearly indicated that survivors were not even safe enough at home to make a call for help and support,” Robb said. “We knew that was going to be the most dangerous time for people because isolation is one of the most tragic tactics that abusers typically use as far as controlling their victims.”

She said during this time Safe Haven began reaching out to survivors via social media and posting signs in public places — essential businesses like grocery stores, gas stations and hospitals — to ensure survivors knew how to get in touch with them.

“We just cannot forget these victims while we all struggle with the pandemic in so many ways,” Klobuchar said.

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