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Domestic Violence 911 Calls Are Increasing - Coronavirus Is Likely to Blame.


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Experts worry that social distancing and stay-at-home-orders are exacerbating abuse.




For weeks, experts and advocates have been raising alarms that the coronavirus outbreak could be disastrous for people in abusive relationships. With nearly three in four Americans being asked not to go out, more victims are isolated in unsafe homes. Abusers may be aggravated by mounting financial pressure and stress. And domestic violence organizations are already strained by social distancing requirements.


Barbara Paradiso, director of the Center on Domestic Violence at the University of Colorado-Denver, says the current moment “feels almost like a petri dish for the levels of violence to increase within family relationships.”


Data from police departments and local news coverage from around the country suggests that these concerns are justified. Mother Jones has identified 13 cities and counties that have reported increases in emergency calls to 911 or domestic violence hotlines over the past month. Several places have seen double-digit increases:


  • Police in Seattle, the first US city hit by a wave of coronavirus cases, received 22 percent more domestic violence calls in the first two weeks of March than they did during same period last year. 
  • Police in San Antonio, Texas, reported a 21 percent increase in family violence calls, with more than 500 additional calls during the first three weeks in March compared to the same period last year.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department in North Carolina reported nearly 400 more domestic violence calls in March compared to the previous year—a 16 percent increase. 
  • Nassau County, on western Long Island, has seen a 10 percent increase in domestic violence 911 calls since January compared to last year, leading the county to announce last week that it was opening a second domestic violence shelter.
  • Police in Portland, Oregon, made 38 domestic violence arrests during a 10-day period in mid-March—a 27 percent increase from the 30 arrests over the same period last year.
  • As of March 22, New York City police had received 7 percent more complaints for domestic violence involving felony assault since January 1 compared to the same period last year.


Law enforcement in Salt Lake City; Charleston, South Carolina; and Collier County (which includes Naples), Florida, have also reported upticks in domestic violence calls. During the week that Californians were ordered to shelter in place, domestic violence calls to police in Fresno, went up by more than 50 percent before returning to normal the following week. Some local domestic violence hotlines are reporting a spike in call volume too, including those in PhiladelphiaCincinnati, Austin, and Charlotte.


Some cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Denver have had no notable increases in domestic violence call volume in recent weeks. In East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, there was a downturn in calls. Ruth Glenn, the president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, points out that police data is not a perfect gauge of whether domestic violence is getting worse. More 911 calls could indicate more violence, but they also could indicate greater trust of local law enforcement during times of crisis—or, simply, more neighbors overhearing arguments or disturbances.


“My concern is victims that don’t report,” Glenn says. 


It’s still early in the coronavirus crisis, and domestic violence tends to escalate as people spend more time in close quarters. In Seattle, most of the 911 calls were for “disturbances”—arguments that did not lead to arrests or criminal charges. With time, Glenn says, “we may see an escalated type of domestic violence calls being made: threats with guns, ‘he strangled me,’ that kind of thing. Abusers escalate.”


Isolation is already a well-known tactic of domestic abusers. But now, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders meant to protect public health may be fueling abusive relationships. With families being urged or required to stay home, “essentially, you’re sentencing victims and their children to being 24/7 with their abuser,” Paradiso says. “And that can be a terrifying prospect.” And because many workplaces are closed and visits to family and friends are off the table, many of techniques survivors rely on to deescalate tensions at home have vanished. So have the safety plans many survivors make to escape their abusers during violent episodes. “If things are beginning to get too hot, then they go visit mom for a while,” Paradiso says. “Or, when their partner is away at work for eight hours, the chances of things being able to deescalate are much higher.” 


Advocates on the ground report that abusers are using social distancing as a means of exerting control over their partners and victims. Twahna Harris, an advocate for survivors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been taking calls from victims who say the coronavirus has already intensified the fear and controlling behavior they live with on a daily basis. One woman who called Harris’ nonprofit, The Butterfly Society, wasn’t able to go to the grocery store to get essential supplies for her family because her husband controlled all their money. Another, a teacher stuck at home because schools are closed, said her partner demanded to review the receipt when she left the house to shop. “He looks over the receipt, what she’s paid, what time did she leave home, how long it took her to make it to Walmart, if the timeline adds up,” Harris says. She recalls the teacher telling her, “I am enslaved to him.”


Over the last few weeks, Paradiso has heard stories of injured victims who would not go to a hospital for help because the were afraid of becoming infected with the coronavrius. She’s also heard of abusers threatening to expose their partners to the virus by kicking them out of their homes. Abusers may weaponize fears of contagion by withholding medical supplies or hand sanitizer from their victims, reports the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “An abusive partner will use any tool in the toolbox to exert power and control,” says Crystal Justice, the hotline’s communications officer. 


On top of all of this, financial insecurity can increase aggression in abusive relationships, according to Paradiso. Uncertainty around money, or job security, or ability to make the next rent payment or put food on the table—all of this stress adds fuel to the fire. “Any time that somebody who chooses to use violence experiences heightened levels of a lack of control in their lives, the tendency for violence escalates,” Paradiso says.


Politicians are urging victims to leave their homes if they’re facing abuse. “I can’t stress enough: you do not need to stay in your home in a dangerous situation,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz during a Monday press briefing. “There are places of sanctuary for you to get out of that.”


But domestic violence shelters are in a tough spot, simultaneously facing increased demand in some places and the need observe social distancing guidelines. Some organizations have reduced their bed count or sent survivors to motels.


Many, like Charlotte’s Safe Alliance, have asked for donations to help with increased costs for food and cleaning. Last week, two dozen US senators sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging the Trump administration to ensure that domestic violence organizations, many of which receive federal grants, have the “flexibility, resources, and information” needed to help survivors and their families during the pandemic.


In the absence of other options, some advocates are suggesting that victims stay in cars or trailers. Harris has been telling people who can’t or won’t leave their homes to find safe spaces like closets, attics, or bedrooms with a lock, where they can take a few minutes alone to unwind. She encourages them to reconnect with family or friends digitally if they can, or plan a trip to the grocery store with a neighbor.


Harris also knows the mental and physical toll that social isolation can take on someone living with abuse. She’s been through it herself, with a former partner who threatened to kill her if she left him. She was eventually able to escape with help from her boss. It’s not difficult for Harris to imagine how the current situation might have exacerbated her former partner’s attempts to control her. “If I was where some of these victims are right now, with my ex-abuser,” Harris says, “I don’t think I would have made it.”


Despite the new constraints facing many survivors and the organizations that serve them, experts and advocates resoundingly encourage those in abusive relationships to reach out for help. “I think the most important message to get out there is that people should call,” Paradiso says. “Call 911 if you’re in fear.”


The National Domestic Violence Hotline takes calls 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a list of organizations by state.


Source : Mother Jones


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Coronavirus:  UK 'Domestic abuse pandemic likely due to shutdown'



Rachel Williams was shot by her estranged husband at a hair salon


The coronavirus outbreak will lead to a "domestic abuse pandemic" as vulnerable people spend all day with their abuser during the UK's lockdown, campaigners have warned.

Strict government rules to stay home to stop Covid-19 spreading is "likely" to cause a spike in domestic abuse cases, both survivors and experts claim.


Film star Michael Sheen is fronting an appeal for authorities to have a plan to deal with the "dramatic rise".

The Welsh Government has promised help.


Domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams, who was shot by her estranged husband Darren as she worked in a hair salon, said vulnerable victims will "feel more isolated than ever".

"The perpetrators and the victims would normally spend some parts of the day in work or socialising," said the founder of Stand Up To Domestic Abuse organisation.


"That could give the victims breathing space and someone to talk to.


"The children are also not in school which means they don't have a safety net - and in some cases a decent meal.


"Now they're all sharing their surroundings 24/7 with no breathing space. It will be tougher than normal."


Gwent Police chief constable Pam Kelly said she feared victims were "were suffering in silence" after seeing a drop in calls to the force.


Rev Jill-Hailey Harries, chair of Carmarthen Domestic Abuse Services said she was worried abusers would be using the coronavirus lockdown to stop their partners having any freedom.


"Another problem, if somebody is a victim of domestic abuse and they fall ill, we are concerned that the abuser might throw them out of the house, and that's quite a worry," she said.


Nazir Afzal, domestic abuse advisor to Welsh Government, said abuse has already increased elsewhere in the world when countries have been in coronavirus lockdown, saying that pattern will continue in the UK.


"It's as certain as night follows day that if there's a period where people are confined to the same space, then it creates an opportunity for the abuser to abuse," Mr Afzal said.


"There has been a 20% rise of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland, 32% in Paris and 40% in New South Wales - and they are significant increases and there will be no doubt that there will be a rise in Wales.


"We've no official data yet, but anecdotally our care workers are already reporting spikes now."


An estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019.


Experts say health worries and fears about income could add to the anxiety and increase the risk of domestic abuse cases.


And with couples confined to their homes, Ms Williams, from Monmouthshire, said: "We know there's a massive influx likely and it will be a pandemic on a pandemic.


"Housing authorities have to open up empty houses to accommodate woman and children and we've got to do the same with hotels and B&Bs - and get a block booking so we're ready to house these, the most vulnerable members of our society."


The Welsh Government said its Live Fear Free helpline will remain open 24/7 and reminded people "if someone is in immediate danger, they should contact 999".


"We're working closely with all lead domestic abuse service providers and charities in Wales to ensure support is available for people at risk, survivors and their families, particularly at this time," said a spokesman.


Wales' biggest police force - and one of the UK's biggest - said it had seen a "worrying slight decline" in domestic abuse calls.


South Wales Police chief constable Matt Jukes said: "We're concerned that there might be increasing pressures in households and I remind if you phone us silently on 999 and press 55, we will pick that up as a cause for concern."


Many communities have helped pick up shopping and prescriptions for the elderly and most vulnerable during the coronavirus restrictions - now Ms Williams wants communities to look out for those who could be experiencing domestic violence.


If you think your friend or neighbour is being abused, now might be the time they want help," she said.


"If you're doing their shopping as they're in isolation and you suspect they're being abused, pass them a discreet note if it's safe - now we have to be more vigilant than ever of domestic violence."


If you would like more help and support about this issue, please visit the BBC Action Line.


Source : BBC

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NYC’s domestic violence website sees rise in visitors amid coronavirus




Spouses and partners being cramped up together because of the coronavirus pandemic is creating a huge surge in visits to New York City’s website for domestic violence survivors.


NYC Hope, which serves as the city’s online domestic violence resource, had 1,240 visits over a 13-day period from March 18 through March 30, according to data by the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence.


Many visit the website to quietly address their problems rather than going straight to the NYPD.


That’s an average of 95 visits a day – more than double the 45 visits NYC Hope had per day this year before March 18.


From March 18 through March 30, NYC Hope also saw 354 new visitors access the website, an average of 27 daily. The 2020 daily average before that was nine new visitors.


The flurry of activity coincides with the city closing Family Justice Centers on March 17 over concerns they would help spread the virus.


The centers provide resources for families impacted by domestic violence, including legal and mental-health help. They are still providing some assistance, including connecting callers with organizations that can help with provide safe shelter.


The increase in New Yorkers inquiring about domestic violence assistance was reported first by Politico.


“Survivors need us now more than ever in these extraordinary times, and our top priority remains to ensure continuity of services and unwavering support…” said Cecile Noel, commissioner of the domestic violence agency.


“The city is here for survivors during this crisis and beyond, and will continue to work to identify best practices and innovative approaches to enhance its services.”


When asked Sunday whether required isolation to combat the virus puts more women and children at risk of abusers, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said his department hadn’t seen any increase but conceded some domestic violence crimes are likely not getting reported, according to Politico.


“We have not seen it manifest in across-the-board increases yet, but it’s certainly something that concerns us for the possibility,” he added.




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