Our firm admires the hard work, dedication and fierce commitment of frontline workers who are helping those in need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have stepped up in the face of this great challenge and we, along with the rest of our community, are profoundly grateful. To shine a light on some of the heroes in our community, we have created a series of blog posts to help share their stories of working during COVID-19.
Maritza Garcia, a dedicated senior victim advocate at Family Services, is truly committed to helping others. Learn more about her meaningful work below and join us in thanking her for all that she does to make our community a better and safer place to live.
Tell us more about the mission of your organization and the populations you serve.
Family Services’ vision is one of stronger, safer communities where everyone has the opportunity to lead their best lives. Our Center for Victim Safety and Support provides 24/7 assistance to victims of violence and other crimes. We are leaders in the community’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault, helping victims understand they are not alone, their safety is a priority and they have options. Our person-centered approach supports survivors’ rights, dignity, healing and self-determination.
How have you been carrying your mission, programs and services forth during COVID-19? What has changed?
Since March 20, I have been working remotely from home. At first this proved to be very challenging – not seeing our clients face to face and knowing that many are home with people who aren’t safe. We worked very hard to make sure that safety is front and center in all of our new procedures, processes and forms of communication with victims.
How has your specific role changed since the start of this crisis?
The physical accompaniment support we provide for a victim – going with them to court, police stations and hospital visits – are not currently possible. These are very crucial and sometimes overwhelming for a victim. We are doing the very best we can to support them through the phone, but we recognize that the dynamics are not the same.
What are the biggest challenges your organization is facing right now?
In periods of extreme stress or displacement, such as the health crisis we are experiencing now, communities see an increase in violence against women and children. During this pandemic, victims are cut off from support and may be sheltering in place with people who are not safe. Child abuse, elder abuse, relationship violence and sexual assault are all crimes that thrive on secrecy and isolation. The current crisis makes it difficult for victims to seek help.
How can people show support?
In the midst of this crisis, Family Services has stepped up its support to the most vulnerable in our community. For those who can, we ask that you join our emergency effort by donating what you are able to: https://familyservicesny.org/donate/
As I mentioned earlier, during this crisis, victims might be cut off from support and may be sheltering in place with people who are not safe. Please help us share that help is still available and advocates and counselors are ready to provide support, resources and options 24/7.
Our 24/7 Hotlines:
If you own a local business and are interested in distributing flyers that share important life-saving services with individuals who may be in need, please join our outreach efforts! We are partnering with many of our local restaurants who are distributing flyers with delivery or pick up orders. Join them in helping us reach our community!
What has resonated with you most during this time?
I believe in the resilience of victims and I am in awe of their strength and the creativity that kicks in when they are in survival mode and fighting to stay alive in their individual abusive situations. We are working with victims in creating safety plans that are uniquely tailored to them and their children in these difficult circumstances.
If you had to pick something positive that has come out of this, what would it be?
The amazing effort of our community working collaboratively to ensure that this population is supported in a safe, wraparound model.