On COVID-19 & Domestic Violence – Joe Torre

Safe At Home’s co-founder Joe Torre shared one of his – often unseen – fears about the COVID-19 pandemic: children in homes with domestic violence. The full op-ed was published in CNN and is reprinted below:

Joe Torre: My fear for many children during the Covid-19 pandemic
Opinion by Joe Torre on CNN.com
Updated 3:08 PM ET, Thu April 9, 2020

When I was a young boy, I witnessed unrelenting verbal abuse and saw the results of the physical harm inflicted on my mother, Margaret. The perpetrator was not some stranger, but my father, a New York City cop. The emotional and physical pain she suffered scarred her life, and mine, too.

I was fortunate, though, during those dark days.

There were times that I would come home from school — one place I found solace — and see my dad’s car in the driveway and head straight to a neighbor’s house instead. Or I was able to escape by getting outside, and playing baseball, a game I loved and fortunately, for me, excelled at, thanks to skills that transported me from the ball fields of Brooklyn to the major leagues.

With the Covid-19 virus now consuming our lives and putting so many in harm’s way, I think back to my early life, and to the young children like me who witnessed domestic violence in their homes. As more states are taking prudent and necessary measures to keep people inside, “stay at home” will not always translate to “safe at home” in many households across the country.

A 2011 US Department of Justice study estimated that 18.8 million children were exposed to domestic violence in their lifetime.

With so many young Americans staying in or close to their homes during this crisis, we can expect that many children will witness violence in their homes.

In fact, research of past crises indicates that the number of incidents and the intensity of domestic violence and child abuse often increase during the most stressful of times.

CNN recently reported that in New York City, one domestic violence resource website saw its daily visitors double from March 18 to April 5.

During this unprecedented period of worry and concern, several critical issues come into play:

  • Survivors of domestic violence and child abuse can no longer rely on going to work or school as a reprieve from the dangers they face at home.
  • Safety plans that usually work under normal circumstances are now being strained.
  • Existing violence and abuse at home are being exacerbated by high levels of stress.
  • Children can’t reach for help because they can’t talk in front of an abusive parent.
  • Without school, there may not be anyone to “notice” signs of abuse and neglect and intervene appropriately.
  • An increase in runaway teenagers, who leave their violent homes, could lead to other dangers, including drug abuse, trafficking and homelessness.
  • Students contemplating suicide may not know where to reach out for help.

To make matters worse, the staggering unemployment rate could lead to an exponential growth in domestic violence incidents.

Unemployment surely will lead to more stress, and the Safe at Home Foundation, which my wife, Ali, and I founded 18 years ago to help young people and their families who have been exposed to domestic violence, has already witnessed a myriad of real world issues adversely affecting families, which might lead family members to engage in abusive or worrisome behaviors.

In the past few weeks, many family members who our counselors have built a relationship with have spoken to us about being worried about getting sick or not being able to pay for health care. Others fear they won’t have enough food to feed their families.

We hear less from the children, however, as outlets at schools and other social service locations are now closed. Schools, especially, are places children can talk to teachers, counselors and others, such as the “Margaret’s Place” teams that our foundation has placed in schools in New York, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and suburban New Jersey.

Named for my mother, “Margaret’s Place” safe rooms — part of the Safe at Home foundation and created in partnership with schools — are in-school locations in these cities, where children affected by domestic violence can go for help and talk to our counselors.

One time, out of curiosity, a young man who was thinking about joining a gang stopped by one of our locations. Over time, with help from our foundation, he started thinking about applying to colleges instead.

We are certainly not alone in our efforts to help children in abusive homes. There are countless local, state and national organizations committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence and giving children a safe environment at home. Our collective mission, now more challenging than ever before, has become even more essential.

With “Margaret’s Place” and others like it across the country now closed, children have fewer and fewer outlets to seek the kind of help and guidance that helped that young man.

Thankfully, we are able to continue to help families by finding them resources for food and other basic needs. And ahead of the school closures, the students we serve reviewed and revised their safety plans, were reminded of coping skills, and were reminded that the violence they are being exposed to is not their fault and that they are not the only ones going through it.

When the crisis has abated, we anticipate addressing the impact that this collective traumatic experience — and any previous and ongoing trauma that may have been exacerbated or untreated at this time — has had on students and their families. Behind the scenes, we are gathering resources on grief and loss and training our staff to respond to these types of issues as they may show up differently now in our school communities.

Our country is undoubtedly caught up in a crisis with no clear timeline or ending, and I fear that my experiences as a child will be experienced by countless others in the coming days, months and years. I worry not only about the health of my loved ones and friends, but also for the children who may not be safe at home. If you know of a loved one, friend or neighbor who is living in a violent household, please check in — while following social distancing guidelines — with them as often as you can.

Safe At Home joins MiLB and Guardian Protection

The last two years, Safe At Home has partnered with Minor League Baseball (MiLB) to hold a domestic violence awareness night at ballparks across the country and to raise funds to support local organizations in those communities. This year, we’re expanding the partnership to include Guardian Protection.

Guardian Protection teams up with Minor League Baseball to become Official Smart Home Security Partner of MiLB

By Minor League Baseball | June 5, 2019 11:00 AM

PITTSBURGH and ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Guardian Protection, a leading security solutions provider, today announced a new partnership with Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) to become the “Official Smart Home Security Partner of MiLB” and the “Preferred Partner” of targeted Minor League Baseball teams across the country.

In conjunction with this partnership, Guardian and MiLB will also team up to support the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which works to provide services to “youth who have been traumatized by exposure to violence” and empowers them to live healthy lives free from violence. In each participating market, for every base runner caught stealing, Guardian will donate funds to Safe At Home or a local charity focused on helping victims of domestic violence.

“Our core value at Guardian is helping our customers feel safe in their homes and protect what is most important to them,” Guardian Vice President of Marketing Kevin Bish commented. “The opportunity to partner with Minor League Baseball and help support an organization such as the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation brings our mission to life in a new and exciting way and is something we’re proud to do.”

The multi-year partnership focuses on markets where Guardian has local branch offices. Guardian’s brand will be included on in-park signage, in promotional materials, and in national marketing programs and events throughout the season with the following teams: Akron RubberDucks (Cleveland/Youngstown, Ohio), Bowie Baysox (Baltimore, Md.), Bradenton Marauders (Tampa, Fla.), Columbus Clippers (Columbus, Ohio), Delmarva Shorebirds (Millsboro, Del.), Frederick Keys (Rockville, Md.), Indianapolis Indians (Indianapolis, Ind.), Lake County Captains (Cleveland/Youngstown, Ohio), Nashville Sounds (Nashville, Tenn.), San Antonio Missions (San Antonio, Texas), Tampa Tarpons (Tampa, Fla.), Trenton Thunder (Trenton, N.J.), and the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Wilmington, Del.).

“With the help of Guardian, we’re providing our fans and homeowners a resource to help make their homes safer, smarter and more efficient, while using the game of baseball to impact our local communities,” said Gerald Jones, vice president, business development & media for Minor League Baseball. “Giving back to our communities is central to Minor League Baseball, and through this partnership and our relationship with the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, we can accomplish our goals together.”

“It has never been more vital to educate people about domestic violence,” said Joe Torre, legendary Baseball Hall of Famer and chairman and founder of Safe At Home. “We are proud to partner with Guardian Protection and Minor League Baseball to raise awareness about domestic violence, end its cycle and help more people feel safe at home.”

This partnership announcement comes on the heels of Guardian’s major rebranding effort and its newly-launched Protect Your World integrated marketing campaign that focuses on safeguarding what’s most important to the customer – such as family, home and business. Guardian, a company with a six-decade history, has evolved the brand into a vibrant, modern shield, demonstrating protection and security, which truly represents the company and its people.

“Being ingrained in the communities we help to protect and giving back is a priority for us,” Bish added. “This unique partnership with Minor League Baseball is aligned with our core values and allows us to reach our customers and have an impact in our local markets in a meaningful way.”