Skip To Content
Quick Escape
Working to create a world free of violence & abuse

Coronavirus compels men to step up against Domestic and Sexual violence

Coronavirus compels men to step up against Domestic and Sexual violence


A few weeks ago we gathered for breakfast to launch the White Ribbon Campaign, a month-long effort led by men, that seeks to encourage all members of the community to bring an end to domestic and sexual violence. Together we spoke to a capacity crowd, filled with hundreds of leaders from throughout the Syracuse community, to affirm the contributions that men must make in order to end all forms of violence against women. While there was little space left in the ballroom that morning, we declared that there was a great deal of room remaining in the movement. We left that day feeling empowered and energized, but we had little idea of the challenges that the weeks ahead would bring.

What we did not know at the beginning of March, but we surely realize now at the end of it, is that the coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis of increasingly immense and intricate significance. With each passing day we receive more difficult news as virus-related challenges grow in variety and severity. From education to economics the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the totality of our local and global routines, and within a brief span of time we have become familiar with the terminology of social distancing, flattening the curve, and staying in place. In the midst of it all our work with the White Ribbon Campaign has taken on a different and far more serious turn. We need help, as the work of bringing an end to domestic and sexual violence is exponentially more complex and challenging because of the coronavirus crisis.

As citizens throughout North America and beyond are told – and sometimes required – to remain in their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic, domestic violence experts warn that such isolation is too often devastating for those now forced to shelter somewhere unsafe. The rooms of a house can function like prison cells for those on the receiving end of abuse. The typical opportunity to leave home each day provides invaluable opportunities for survivors to receive protection and even utilize community resources. However, as shared by Anita Bhatia of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women:

“…the very technique we are using to protect people from the virus can perversely impact victims of domestic violence… while we absolutely support the need to follow these measures of social distancing and isolation, we also recognize that it provides an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence.”

About one in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Alarmingly, because social isolation is shown to have a destructive impact on the safety of survivors, the rate of domestic and sexual violence appears to be skyrocketing in coronavirus-impacted areas. Early reports from Asia and Europe show significant increases in domestic and sexual violence, and some call centers across North America – including those in Syracuse – have recently declined in participation, in part because survivors are no longer given the safe and suitable distance required to reach out for help.

The coronavirus is a crisis of epic proportions with consequences that will last for the foreseeable future. We fully support the recommendations provided by health professionals that will allow our state, country and world to move past this terrible outbreak. We are also aware of the challenges that this crisis presents, and we encourage all those in need of care to contact Vera House at 315.468.3260, which provides 24-hour, year-round support. The hotline is confidential, anonymous, free, and helps survivors to develop a safety plan to escape abuse.

While much has changed since we gathered for breakfast a few weeks ago, what has not changed is our commitment to stand with Vera House and serve this community that we all so dearly love. In the spirit of the White Ribbon Campaign, which began in 1991 when a group of concerned men decided they could no longer be neutral, we call upon all men in Syracuse and beyond to take on a renewed sense of responsibility during this time of crisis and moving forward. We should reach out to one another to inspire each other. We should dedicate ourselves to help others be the best versions of themselves. We should “be our brother’s keeper” to serve those most vulnerable and ensure a better future. As men we should challenge each other, not merely to be non-violent, but to commit to no longer be silent.

James Branche
United Radio
White Ribbon Campaign Co-Chair

Rev. Brian Konkol
Syracuse University
White Ribbon Campaign Co-Chair

Ryan McMahon
Onondaga County Executive
White Ribbon Campaign Honorary Co-Chair

Ben Walsh
Syracuse Mayor
White Ribbon Campaign Honorary Co-Chair

George Kilpatrick
Vera House, Inc.
Men’s Outreach Coordinator