What it's like to work for DVRCC during COVID-19
Domestic violence isn’t a personal matter or family issue, but an alarming and pervasive problem negatively impacting victims, abusers, family and the entire community.
The emergency hotline at the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center in Dickinson rings 24/7 and faint knocks at the door come at all hours of the day and night.
There is always someone at the DVRCC - all day, every day. They provide a safe shelter, personal and legal advocacy, crisis counseling, safety planning and a support group for victims and their children.
Working for the center is stressful, rewarding and frustrating, according to its director, Darianne Johnson.
"We would really like everybody to just be happy, and sometimes, it's not on our terms, and it's not on what we gauge happiness as. Sometimes it's frustrating because you think you're not doing enough, that you should have done more, but you also have to realize that it's not your life to live; it's theirs, so they have to make those decisions, not you," Johnson said.
"It's rewarding when somebody just makes strides to move forward in their life. It's not always the way you would want it to be, because we would always like everything to be perfect and everything to be happily ever after, but ... that's rewarding," she said.
They've had many women come back to seek their services again, but they've also had women come back to say how their life has changed for the better.
"That's the best thing ever," Johnson said.
Every day is different, and every situation is different.
"You always are trying to figure out better ways to do things. We have worked really hard to maintain relationships with all of the other service agencies, because there's not one agency that can do it alone. We rely on all of the other agencies in Dickinson as well," Johnson said.
The days are more different than ever now with the COVID-19 pandemic. It's impacted every aspect of the DVRCC.
"A lot of things that can be done over Zoom, we have to do over Zoom. We have to ask anyone that comes for our assistance questions as to whether or not they have been exposed ... If they have been, then we would probably ask to do things over the phone or to do things via Zoom ... in order to keep them safe and staff safe and the other residents in the shelter safe."
One portion of the shelter is being used for quarantine, and all of the residents must wear a mask in shared areas.
The shelter has a capacity of 28, but it is currently operating at half capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Of course, if there was a domestic violence victim that needed to come in, we would do what we had to do to make things work," Johnson said.
While the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that data it collected between March 16 and May 16 of this year showed a 9% increase in contacts it received, Johnson said the DVRCC hasn't necessarily seen one.
"I wouldn't say that we've seen an increase. I know a lot of people are talking about an increase. I think there's just as much as there always has been, but there's so many other things that people have to think about ... that before ... they didn't have to worry about," she said.
The DVRCC, which is funded through federal, state and county governments, provides these services to victims and their children from Stark, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Bowman, Slope, Adams and Billings Counties.
Those in a domestic violence situation can contact the center directly or use their 24-hour crisis line. Victims are also referred to the center by law enforcement, social services, hospitals and churches.