CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Charleston YWCA reported a drastic drop in the number of domestic violence victims reaching out to their emergency hotline. It was not because there wasn’t a need but instead they believed it was because victims were isolated with their abusers. Realizing that it would be difficult for domestic violence victims to talk on the phone with their abusers in the next room the YWCA created an online chat feature.

Even though things are opening back up they plan to keep that feature going along with other things they learned during the pandemic.

“So I packed my stuff up. I put it in the car for at least a week threatening to leave but never actually leaving and then one night I said I had to leave for work early and I left,” said a domestic violence survivor assisted by the YWCA. She wanted to remain anonymous. Being there for people in her shoes is one of the key goals for the charleston YWCA.

“It was the first times in years that somebody looked at me and said ‘you have a choice and it is yours to make, nobody is here to tell you what to do we are just simply here to help’,” the survivor explained, about the services she received at the YWCA.

In April 2020 there was a sharp decline in the number of people reaching out to the Domestic Violence Hotline and accessing the court advocate program. The group found that being isolated with their abusers made people hesitant to call.

“It made us really take a critical look at how we do things and change up some of that to better meet the needs,” said Julie Britton with the Resolve Family Abuse Program. “If there was anything good that came out of the pandemic it was that we really needed to look at the way we do what we do.”

In response, they created a crisis chat that can be accessed through their website so people can communicate quietly. It is something that they’ll continue to offer even though things are opening back up.

“It has been a great feature. People love it. They really respond to it. Our advocates do a great job with that. So we are going to keep that up and keep it running,” Britton said.

Between the hotline and the chat, they are almost back to the normal amount of contacts from the community. The court advocate program is back to pre-pandemic levels as well.

“I mean I would love for this to be that the numbers have gone down and we are really making a change and people are changing their behavior,” Britton said. “But that but that is not what we are seeing.”

Some other new programs introduced recently at the YWCA include the rapid rehousing program that moves people out of homelessness quickly and the Pet Project that allows survivors to bring their pets along when they flee.