With COVID-19 looming large over the Super Bowl, it hasn’t sidelined the local Souper Bowl, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program’s largest annual fundraiser.
But like everything else in this pandemic year, this month’s DVIP event will look very different.
Instead of gathering in Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, as in 2020, this year’s “souporters” can pick up their heat-and-eat orders from 2 to 8 p.m. Feb. 25 at the DVIP business office, 1105 S. Gilbert Ct., Iowa City, or arrange for delivery within 15 miles of the office.
However, tickets are only available through 11:45 p.m. Feb. 15. Organizers are hoping to sell 300 tickets, and as of Monday afternoon, 190 had been snapped up. And since the organization serves eight southeast Iowa counties — Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Van Buren and Washington — those who live outside the Iowa City area but still wish to participate can email Alta Medea-Peters, director of community engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or to make soup pickup arrangements.
The community meal of years past, featuring about 40 kinds of soup donated by area restaurants, will transform into selecting from 10 soup flavors to savor at home.
“In its typical form, it’s like a family reunion,” Medea-Peters said. “Last year, at our highest attendance rate, we had over 500 of our closest friends and family over for dinner. It has a very strong community-coming-together-for-dinner feeling.”
Diners would line up from 60 to 90 minutes before the doors opened, so they could choose a “best” keepsake soup bowl made by area artists, donated by antiques collectors or from thrift stores.
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“People are really excited to pick out their personal bowls,” Medea-Peters said. “ ... It’s all done in fun. Some donors who have been collecting for all 24 years have (put) in their wills that the bowls will be returned back to the DVIP Souper Bowl event in the future.”
This year’s benefit has four ticketing options, some of which include a souvenir soup mug.
“It’s an event that the community owns and supports, and is a lot of fun. We’ve had various politicians and representatives attend in the past,” Medea-Peters noted. “Bernie Sanders came to one of our Souper Bowls before he ran for the presidency. There’s games, there’s music, there’s kids’ activities, and of course, lots and lots of soups.”
What isn’t all in fun is the reason for the benefit.
Typically raising between $10,000 and $15,000, the goal for this year’s event is to raise $15,000 to help keep DVIP’s doors open, lights on, the hotline staffed, and to advocate for victims at the courthouse or hospitals around the clock, Medea-Peters said.
The urgency has grown with the pandemic.
“A lot of front-line workers have said the secondary pandemic is actually domestic violence and abuse toward women that are isolating with their abuser,” she said, “so supporting our services right now is more vital than ever.”
Since May, DVIP has seen a 28 percent increase in calls to its 24-hour hotline, and with the need for physical distancing, the nonprofit organization has spent 76 percent more in sheltering costs in the past eight months than during the same period in 2019. The need to cut capacity from 40 to 20 at the 24-hour emergency shelter means that DVIP has had to turn to hotels to shelter victims.
According to an Oct. 15 report from the CDC, one in four women and one in seven men will experience intimate partner abuse in their lifetime, Medea-Peters said, and last year, DVIP served 1,900 survivors and provided more than 25,000 nights of safety.
“Intimate partner violence, domestic violence, any violence can happen to anybody, regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic levels, sexual orientation — all of it,” she said. “It happens — and can happen to anybody. We work with everyone; we help support and shelter anyone in need, and that is important to know.”
The Souper Bowl began as a way to dispel the late-’80s, early-’90s myth that domestic violence escalated during the Super Bowl, spurred on by drinking and a rough-sport mentality, Medea-Peters noted, calling that a common misconception.
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Abuse can happen at any time, she said, but the stressors of the pandemic and the virus itself have pushed up the need for DVIP’s intervention and safety services.
“Individuals are forced to isolate with their abuser,’ Medea-Peters said, “so there’s no reprieve. There’s no way to problem-solve or safety-plan outside of that space, especially when we were in more of a complete lockdown. That’s why we started to see hotline numbers increase in May as people were able to start to get out, go for walks, go to different places, (return) to work. There was a little bit of room for people to make some phone calls and get help.
“The other thing we know is that victim survivors will try to make it through — get through this period so (they) can try to do something on the other side of it,” she said. “What we see a lot of times is that lethality increases. The waiting happened, so by the time they do reach out for help, it’s in a lot more of an extreme circumstance than it would normally be or had been in the past.
“In addition to all of that, there’s the actual stress of the pandemic, and that comes in a number of different forms: there’s the economic stress, there’s increased stressors all around.
“But then, abusers ... use the virus as a way to control their victim-survivor: ‘I’m going to tell everybody you have COVID — nobody’s going to take you in, and then (I’ll) tell everybody you got your children ill.’ And so you have nowhere to turn — everywhere is closed.
“And that’s another tool of isolation,” she said. “Perpetrators (are) feeding on that isolation, and that ability to really manipulate the situation to control their victim. So we don’t have people necessarily reach out then, because they don’t know. They think we won’t help them because they have COVID — those types of things.
“None of that’s true,” she said. “We are open, we will help you. We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we’ll problem-solve and safety-plan.”
Medea-Peters encourages victims to seek support at any time, for any kind of abuse.
“Domestic violence looks different for everyone,” she said. “Abuse does not have to be physical to do damage — 95 percent of victim-survivors experience financial abuse in their lifetime, with controlling of funds.”
That may seem innocuous, she said, but added that giving up that piece of control, while not necessarily bad, can take away your input in decision making. In that same manner, giving over all of your passwords chips away at your autonomy and may cause others to feel something’s a little off in your home.
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“If you’re at that point of questioning, I would strongly encourage people to reach out to our hotline,” Medea-Peters said, at 1- (800) 373-1043. “That toll-free number is available to anybody in need, whether it’s about a loved one or it’s about themselves, questioning, wondering, ‘How do I support this person?’ or ‘Am I really crazy?’ Gaslighting, isolation and financial abuse are considered red flags or the tip of the iceberg — that maybe something’s not quite right.”
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• What: Souper Bowl: 24th annual fundraiser for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program
• When: 2 to 8 p.m. Feb. 25, pickup or delivery within a 15-mile radius of DVIP’s business office, 1105 S. Gilbert Ct., Iowa City
• Options: 10 ready-to-heat soup choices; $25 Souporter with one commemorative mug and two 8-ounce containers of soup; $15 Student/Sliding Scale Souporter with one 8-ounce container of soup; $75 Souporting Family Pack with two commemorative mugs and five 8-ounce containers of soup; $25 Gift of Giving donation with no soup
• Tickets: On sale through 11:45 p.m. Feb. 15 at dvipiowa.org/event/souper-bowl-2021/
• Service area: Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Van Buren and Washington counties; event supporters living outside the Iowa City area can email firstname.lastname@example.org for options
• Information: dvipiowa.org
• DVIP 24-hour hotline: 1-800-373-1043