Read Orlando Weekly's National Geographic-funded new reporting on Wednesday

Ashley Belanger - Photo via ashleyedits.com
Photo via ashleyedits.com
Ashley Belanger

Some good news: On April 8, we learned that the National Geographic Society would fund a work of original investigative reporting to be published in Orlando Weekly.

The Society's Emergency Fund for Journalists supports evidence-based, on-the-ground reporting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local populations. We know Orlando needs the view from within, not the "view from 35,000 feet" that we get from the national news organizations, and that's why we were so excited to receive a grant.

It's clear to everyone that quarantine is a terrible place to be if you live with an abuser, and yet that's where so many people, especially women, find themselves. Last week, we reported on women who told us what it's like to be pregnant during a pandemic. This week, we're taking a look at the stories behind the domestic violence numbers in Central Florida.

The grant is available to individual journalists, so I immediately reached out to one of our former editors, Ashley Belanger, a ferociously smart young editor whom we lost to the lure of grad school. Her name will sound particularly familiar if you've read her work in Teen Vogue, like her reporting on underage marriage, which received national media attention.

Belanger recently completed her master's degree in the Science Writing program at MIT, and was up for the challenge. I knew she'd be the right person to tackle the issue of what happens when "safer at home" isn't.

The results may surprise you. The data we initially saw was puzzling. Reports of domestic violence in Central Florida during the pandemic actually went down. Why would that be?

It turns out that stress is increasing incidents of abuse, according to the survivors who've been able to call a hotline or escape their homes, but the lockdown has made it much more difficult to even make a phone call, much less leave.

Belanger spoke to more than a dozen sources in order to get a full, nuanced picture of this issue as it unfolds in Central Florida. Her original draft came in at 4,000 words – you can read it online and in print now – and her reporting will lead us to several follow-up articles to come.

We're so grateful to the National Geographic Society for making this possible, and to Ashley for doing the work. Consider joining our new Orlando Weekly Press Club if you'd like to see even more.

Be sure to check out the story, which went online Wednesday morning.


Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.
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