A Discussion on Domestic Violence with Bridgette Stumpf

Domestic Violence, Part 2

October 22, 2020

This month, HCCC Project Director Brittany Perrotte talked with Bridgette Stumpf, co-founder and executive director of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, to hear her perspective on how domestic violence intersects with access to food and health services. Bridgette shared her insights on ways Challenge communities can partner with local organizations to meet the needs of domestic violence victims and survivors. 

In March, stay-at-home orders were put into place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep communities safe. Schools, universities and all non-essential businesses were shut down, leaving the public confined to their homes. Unfortunately, while the stay-at-home orders were an important measure taken to combat the virus, they didn’t address the epidemic that was occurring behind closed doors: domestic violence.

Early on, researchers and advocates voiced their concerns about a potential increase in the need for domestic violence services as the pandemic continued to unfold. For Bridgette Stumpf of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, these anxieties became a reality. 

“Our advocates offer a 24/7 crisis response for any adult survivor who is accessing a forensic medical exam,” Stumpf said. “This includes things like going to the hospital emergency department, and triaging with a forensic nurse or law-enforcement. What’s interesting to know is that [typically] 15% of all of responses to that program are related to domestic violence and sexual assault. That percentage increased during COVID. It was about 30% of all exams.” 

While many organizations like NVRDC have reworked their operations to continue providing services, victims and survivors face new barriers to reporting violence and accessing support. For example, as health care providers and forensic programs moved to telemedicine platforms, victims were left with limited opportunities to disclose abuse at home. 

“Telehealth is a large gap to consider,” Stumpf explained. “Their abuser is controlling their technology, doesn't want them to see their doctor because of a physical indicator of abuse, or they don't have access to the proper technology; we have to be cautious of these barriers.”

Threats from COVID-19 have also led to an increase in food-insecure households. As a result, gaps in local food distribution systems have also magnified pressures for victims and led abusers to find new ways to exert control. 

“With food services, when you are working with survivors that are immune-compromised, you have to think about whether resources in communities that offer food services do walk-up or drive-up services,” Stumpf said. “Also, you must think about the ability the abuser has to control the time at which the survivor is able to access food resources and transportation.”

Even with new barriers present due to the global pandemic, it is important to recognize that any organization can make prevention of inequities a priority while planning their response during a health crisis. Stumpf noted the profound role communities of the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge can play in providing equitable access to food and health services for victims of domestic violence

“Communities should do a landscape assessment of where there are resources for the community and for survivors, but then also partner with those organizations,” Stumpf said. “We need to think more broadly about where we do outreach as service providers. Equipping front-line individuals with tools to respond in a trauma-informed way is a great way to continue creating safe spaces for survivors to access support and care.”

An important recommendation for those interested in incorporating assistance for victims and survivors of domestic violence into their work is to reach out to state domestic violence coalitions. Stumpf reminded us these coalitions can connect your organization to local service providers. 

“There are people out there that are well-versed in recognizing and responding to domestic violence. Find out who your local service provider is. Find out who on the front lines is equipped to respond to survivors’ needs. Partner with them. Create a partnership for long term collaboration.”

Watch a recording of the full interview:


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