North Texas police are noticing a disturbing trend when it comes to domestic violence.
“Family violence is one that was initially down during the ‘Stay Order.’ We’ve seen for the month an increase of about 18%.,” Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said. “We are not naive. We understand that some of our victims are probably sheltered in place with their abusers.”
While many law enforcement agencies are seeing the surge in calls, that is not the case for many organizations that work with abuse victims.
“We actually have seen a dramatic drop from last year,” Families to Freedom founder Sarah Nejdl said. “We’re at about a 50% reduction in call volume.”
That drop in calls coupled with an increase in calls to police is concerning.
“If victims are calling the police more now. That means that things have escalated at the home more,” Nejdl said. “I hope that victims will know that agencies are working together and there are shelter spaces available.”
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Families to Freedom work to help transport victims from their situation to either a shelter or to a safe family home.
“We work with about 28 different domestic violence shelters across North Texas,” Nejdl said.
There are theories about the drop in crisis line calls during the COVID-19 situation.
“I’m worried that victims have heard that shelters are full or they may think that there is no hope. I’m worried that victims feel that shelters, with communal living, are not a safe place to be because of COVID-19,” Nejdl said. “I’m worried that victims feel like they can’t leave or that they are waiting for a stimulus payment and that is keeping them in their homes or with the perpetrator.”
The calls that are coming in are often from people who are affected by working from home.
“The work at home has helped victims feel trapped. Either because the abuser is working from home or because the victim herself is mandated to work from home,”
Many organizations are seeing that calls are getting shorter and increasingly frantic.
“We’ve experienced this as well. We are getting calls from people where the situation has escalated precipitously where people are trying to get on the call and get off as quickly as possible,” Nejdl said. “We’ve had a few different callers where they were interrupted.”
Domestic violence relief organizations urge victims to not give up hope when sheltered at home and consider texting 911 for help in areas that support the function.
“There is always a way out,” Nejdl said.
The Families to Freedom hotline number is 972-885-7020.
The organization is in need of North Texas volunteers.
“After the stay-at-home orders were issued, we lost 75% of our volunteer drivers. We need more community members who are willing and able to give victims rides to shelters,” Nejdl said. “Volunteers can visit our website page to get started: https://www.familiestofreedom.org/volunteer” Volunteers must have a clean criminal background and clean driving record, and of course time to be of service to victims and survivors in need.