OPINION: COVID, Domestic Violence, and Child Abuse — Title IX Can Help

By Meg Farra and Sarah Meiser | April 12, 2020 12:11pm
Meg Farra, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students at UP, and Sarah Meiser, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Compliance. Photos courtesy of Meg Farra and Sarah Meiser.

During the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing and staying at home are important. In Oregon and Washington, COVID-19 numbers indicate that our actions are helping to lessen the COVID-19 curve and save lives. 

Although social distancing efforts are important, we are hearing about an unintended but serious consequence: potential increases in situations of domestic violence and child abuse.

According to a New York Times article on April 6, hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming. The United Nations called on Sunday for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary General António Guterres wrote on Twitter. 

According to a New York Times opinion article on April 7, when there is household dysfunction — domestic violence, parental substance abuse or a mental disorder — the risk of child abuse goes up, and there’s reason to believe all of these things will increase during this pandemic. 

The University of Portland community is not immune from domestic violence and child abuse. Pandemic or not, UP’s Title IX team receives requests for assistance about situations involving domestic/dating violence and child abuse. Many of these reports involve situations occurring off-campus.

During the coronavirus pandemic, UP’s Title IX team also heard that there were students who did not feel safe returning to their family homes. The university has sought to support these students by allowing them to remain in campus residence halls.

The Title IX team encourages any student who needs assistance with situations involving domestic violence or child abuse to connect with us by calling (503) 943-8982 or emailing titleix@up.edu. The Title IX team can provide support and resources, including resources to support the safety of students. Also, Portland community resources are on the Title IX website at www.up.edu/titleix.

The Title IX team also reminds UP employees that under Oregon law, UP employees must report child abuse to the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) or a local law enforcement agency. Such a report must be made if a UP employee has “reasonable cause to believe” that any child under 18 years old has suffered abuse or that any person with whom the employee came into contact has abused a child under 18 years old. Reports to DHS can be made by calling (855) 503-7233, toll-free. Urgent situations should be reported by calling 911.

We thank you for reading the important information here and encourage everyone to support the safety of everyone in our communities. 

Meg Farra is the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students at UP and can be reached at farra@up.edu. Sarah Meiser is the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Compliance at UP and can be reached at meisers@up.edu.