Courtesy of Cornell University

Ithaca community members pictured celebrating the creation of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.

April 6, 2020

Tompkins Advocacy Center Serves Victims as New York’s Domestic Abuse Cases Rise

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Like most Ithaca organizations, the Tompkins Advocacy Center –– which serves victims of domestic violence and abuse –– has tailored its operations to address the COVID-19 crisis, modifying some resources and adding others to address the needs of the Ithaca community.

Kristi Taylor, the Advocacy Center’s Education Director, told The Sun that the organization has taken best practice suggestions from the World Health Organization and the New York Department of Health.

The Center’s emergency shelter continues to operate, now with six-foot social distancing protocols, for those who may need it. Its support resources continue remotely.

“We still have our staff operational,” Taylor said. “We are working at home as much as possible, while still maintaining, obviously, our physical shelter.”

Typically, the Advocacy Center provides support, education and legal consultation resources to those in need. It runs an emergency shelter, offers legal childcare services and provides advocates who work one-on-one with survivors to help them access necessary legal services.

As services adapt within the Tompkins Advocacy Center, they may become more vital to the outside community. New York has more coronavirus cases than any other U.S. state, according to a continually updated New York Times tally. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) executive order  outlines safety suggestions for the pandemic, including staying home wherever possible.

“That doesn’t feel like a very safe option when you’re talking about domestic violence or even things like child abuse or sexual assault happening in the home,” Taylor said.

In an April 3 status update on Twitter, Cuomo likewise expressed concern over a surge in domestic violence cases. He encouraged victims to seek help by calling New York’s domestic violence hotline, 1-800-942-6906.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) relayed similar worries, as well as a list of pertinent resources, in an official press release on March 31.

“I encourage those who experience domestic violence to reach out to relevant resources for help and guidance during these difficult times,” James wrote in the release.

Taylor stated that there has been an “uptick” in demand for the Tompkins Advocacy Center’s services, including the shelter. She was unable to provide specific numbers.

Along with its social distancing practices, the shelter has attempted to secure the safety of workers and survivors with cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and protective equipment.

“Our local health department has been really helpful in trying to do the best that they can to make sure that we have all of the equipment that we could possibly need,” Taylor said.

According to Taylor, the Ithaca community can assist the advocacy center through donations like gas cards and grocery store gift cards to assist those in need.

As the pandemic situation continues to change, Taylor encouraged the community to check the Tompkins Advocacy Center website for updated information. She also welcomes people to call the center with questions.

For at-risk Cornell students outside of Ithaca, the advocacy center offers help with connecting to local resources. Over the phone, workers can help callers to develop at-home safety plans.

“We are still providing services,” Taylor said. “That’s the big message that we want to get out.”

The Center’s hotline number, 607-277-5000, remains active 24 hours a day.