SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)—New studies show one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Georgia’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline has recorded a
15% increase in calls.

Now, one nonprofit is stepping up to help change this trend for women who need it most.

Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) is providing free representation for low-income individuals in hopes of creating equal access to justice.

“It’s basically a no-win situation,” Georgia Legal Services Program’s Wanda Andrews said. “For them, it’s either leave the home and possibly risk greater exposure to the virus, or stay in the home, even though you knew the home is not a very safe place to be.”

It’s estimated that more than 35% of women in Georgia will be victims of family violence at some point, but mandatory lockdowns, job losses and economic issues are making it difficult for victims to escape their abusers.

“A lot of victims are dependent on the abuser, the person who is abusing them, for economic stability,” Andrews said. “That was a reason even before the pandemic and that became even greater after the pandemic with the loss of jobs.”

GLSP currently serves more than 2 million people in poverty who are not guaranteed representation in civil court. They advise anyone dealing with domestic violence to call the police as soon as possible. However, survivors need lawyers to access the legal system to ensure they stay protected.

“No one deserves to be abused,” Andrews said. “And a lot of times the abuser tries to make it the victim’s fault. It is never the victim’s fault.”

Andrews says women of color are disproportionately impacted by family violence, as well as the coronavirus. According to a study completed by the Department of Justice, African American women experienced partner violence 35% more than other women.

“I know sometimes survivors of family violence feel as though they are alone, you are not alone. We are very fortunate in Savannah to have persons and agencies and law enforcement and judiciary that are willing to help,” Andrews said.

Call GLSP’s statewide intake number 1-833-457-7529 or visit their website for more information on how to access free legal services.