The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed life as we knew it, and even as we enter roughly the fourth week of coronavirus-related social distancing and self-quarantining measures there remain many things in this “new normal” that we’re still adjusting to. For most of us, the worst of these adjustments might include the stress of a child’s new online school schedule, anxiety over economic uncertainty and job security, severe cases of cabin fever, or a combination of all of the above and then some. For others, unfortunately, these factors (among others) can fuel existing threats at home that only worsen as the pandemic continues. In this week’s #CombatingCoronavirus post we focus on Marsy’s Law for North Carolina and how its work within the state and alongside community partners ensures victims have the resources they need– even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Marsy’s Law for North Carolina (MLNC) is part of a nationwide movement to ensure and enshrine equal constitutional rights for victims of crime. North Carolina became a Marsy’s Law state in November 2016 when voters approved a ballot measure adding Marsy’s Law to the N.C. Constitution. In addition to ensuring that victims have equal rights to those of the accused, MLNC works with partners throughout the law enforcement, judicial and victim advocacy spaces to ensure sufficient resources and services remain in place for victims no matter what.
Ensuring victims have access to reliable services and resources could not be more important than it is at this moment. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic some victims have become increasingly vulnerable and unable to take potentially life-saving action as a result of social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders. Feeling this most acutely are children and victims of domestic abuse: historically speaking, incidents of domestic violence and child abuse tend to rise when people are spending more time at home together. And this trend is already evident in North Carolina as some domestic violence shelters see a 116 percent jump in calls while others, more concerned by the lack of calls they’re receiving, prepare for a post-coronavirus surge.
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein and N.C. Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley have been working together to ensure that domestic violence victims continue to have access to the courts and legal protections they need; however, court closures and continuances applied to many cases have left other victims in a place of limbo. Additional uncertainty stems from the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) move to release select inmates from prison early and move them to community supervision, but DPS Secretary Erik Hook’s assurance that constitutional requirements such as victim notification will continue to be met helps assuage some concerns.
During the coronavirus pandemic it’s important to recognize that everything requires balance. From a victims’ rights perspective it’s crucial that notification continue as DPS considers the early release of select inmates to protect their health and that of prison staff. For individuals who continue to be victimized throughout this time it’s critical that some key court functions remain open amid social distancing and stay-at-home orders. As we all embrace another week of pandemic-induced quarantine join us in recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) April 19-25, and learn more about how you can help yourself or your loved ones during this difficult time.
If you or someone you know needs help you can find resources here, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or visit the following for more information: