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The Coronavirus Crisis and Women in our Community

Time is a funny thing. Fleeting when we are busy, it can be interminably slow when we watch it go by. Right now, many families in the Delaware Valley are watching time go by. At the same time, we can reflect on what this crisis means for some of those carrying a heavy load in society. Because the coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a mandatory stay-at-home order in Pennsylvania and many other states, people can become socially isolated, and the burdens often borne by women in the best of times can become even heavier.

Women represent roughly half the population and are greatly affected by this crisis, yet few news items are devoted to how current circumstances will be exceptionally trying for them. Often women are, and are expected to be, the primary caregivers for children and aging parents; women face the potential challenge of domestic violence in their households; and women tend to receive less income than men, either due to filling low income roles, or having equal roles with unequal compensation as compared to their male counterparts.

With the coronavirus crisis, many of these conditions have become aggravated. With the stay-at-home order, couples may find their relationships strained or worse. For example, calls to a domestic violence hotline in our area increased by 30% in just the first week after Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order. Moreover, many women now have the additional duty of helping to school their children at home, and many women are facing daunting financial challenges, especially if they are single parents and/or had their jobs eliminated.

What is the nature of the coronavirus crisis? It is slow moving close up, yet in aggregate numbers it is quick to grow. It will take a substantial amount of time before it is over, and this invisible threat has families staying home with few options to receive person to person external emotional and social support. At the same time, emotional health has often been downplayed or help delayed.

Women are on the front lines of this pandemic both professionally and personally. The greater community can help by supporting one another and the social service agencies that provide a compassionate ear, expertise, or protection. The Women’s Resource Center offers information and referral to social services in the local community through its free Helpline. It is accessible by emailing info@womensrc.org or by visiting the website.

In this unprecedented perfect storm, there is the highly important message that help is available and is being given as safely as possible by social service agencies. There are resources in our area to bring hope to women in very dire situations, such as the loss of a home, the loss of a job, or an abusive spouse. It is important to recognize that these dangers are now becoming more prevalent due to the crisis and in this time of isolation, becoming insidious to our societal fabric. The community can come together in this crisis and change lives for the better.

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