An LSU study found that the internet, particularly social media, has been a key resource for Louisiana groups working to prevent violence against women amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has limited face-to-face interaction between advocates and clients.
The study, which included universities and accredited centers across the state, surveyed 20 people working in the area of violence against women. The groups were forced to rethink their in-person strategies, revamp their media approach and adapt their direct care services to better serve women during the pandemic.
Online engagement strategies were critical for both universities and accredited centers amid COVID lockdowns, according to the study, which calls for greater resources to be invested in virtual outreach to connect more women with centers.
“Centers quickly transitioned current clients to virtual services like telephone counseling, and university-based programs revised their social media messaging to be more empathetic and remind students of the services available to them during the pandemic," LSU Assistant Professor of Media Law Fanny Ramirez, the study's lead investigator, said.
The study was conducted while lockdowns restricted movement throughout much of the state and domestic abuse and sexual violence rates were rising worldwide, according to an accompanying news release.
Accredited centers, in particular, experienced difficulties advocating in hospitals and establishing connections with new clients due to the pandemic.
Both accredited centers and universities used digital media to fill the void created by the lack of face-to-face interactions with women as a way to remind prospective clients that their services were available.
Emotionally-driven communication to assure potential clients that it's safe to seek help from universities and centers was found to be the most effective.
The study urges universities and centers to create technology-focused partnerships to increase social media staffing, identify needed policy changes and to alleviate financial burdens in future emergencies.