Experts predict a surge in domestic violence because of stay at home measures to combat coronavirus, and there are signs it has already begun.
Kathryn Jacob, CEO of Safehaven Tarrant County, said calls to the agency’s hotline increased in mid-March.
“I think that was attributed to the fact that survivors knew this shelter in place, we all did, was coming, and they made a decision to leave their abusive relationship at that time, before they were trapped inside with their abuser,” she said.
Irving Police Chief Jeff Spivey said his agency has noticed an increase since then.
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“We’ve seen just a slight uptick in the last three weeks of domestic violence calls. We’ve certainly seen a little more violence, involving guns, involving serious bodily injury in the cases,” Spivey said.
Now that families must shelter in place, victims may have a difficult time making a call for help. But abusive relationships may be producing situations that will result in more calls later.
“Because everyone is sheltered in place, staying together, those opportunities to make those reports aren’t there,” Spivey said.
Additionally, Jacob said she believed some victims were concerned about leaving their home and being exposed to COVID-19.
“It’s a little like, not to minimize it, it’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t. And I think that’s part of the situation,” she said.
Other victims in abusive homes may be children. School is where outcries about abuse often occur with teachers, guidance counselors or school resource police officers.
“Kids aren’t going to school. Kids aren’t having that opportunity to make those outcries. So, another part of this is what’s happening to our kids during this,” Spivey said.
The Irving police chief encouraged neighbors to watch and listen to what was happening in surrounding homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for you to know what’s going on in your neighborhood,” Spivey said.
Jacob said domestic violence agencies are still on the job, working to help victims leave abusive situations, despite the complications of social distancing and coronavirus.