When it's not Safe to "Stay-at-Home"

Domestic Violence on the Rise during COVID-19

The stay-at-home order related to COVID-19 is an inconvenience for many.  But for some, it's downright unsafe.  Victims of domestic violence are finding themselves trapped in even worse scenarios than before, with perpetrators always around and few places to leave for respite.
"The social isolation is hard enough in a normal relationship," said Regina Pursley, the Nonresidential Case Manager for TCN Behavioral Health's Domestic Violence Program, a United Way Funded Program. "People have cabin fever.  But when you're not in a good relationship, things get blown up ten times worse.  There are a lot of short fuses and 'walking around on eggshells' out there."
"You and I are feeling stressed, wondering what's going to happen, worrying about things we didn't used to worry about," said Deb Brownlee, Manager of TCN's Domestic Violence Program.  "But it's a double whammy for victims.  They are also worried about their safety and their children's safety.  The batterer is at home all the time.  Maybe the victim thinks they can't go to a counselor.  Wondering, 'How do I make a plan when I can't even go out the door?'  Victims feel like there's no help and there's no hope.  But there is."  
Since COVID-19, occupancy has doubled at the Soteria House, Logan County's domestic violence shelter.  19 people are currently living there, including two babies under four months old.  The Bellefontaine Police Department reports they've received 48 calls for domestic violence in the last month, a 26 percent increase over the same period last year.  And Brownlee reports that calls for help to TCN's advocacy line (937-593-5777) slowed at the beginning of the stay-at-home order, but have picked up substantially in the last two weeks.  
The local trend follows what's happening elsewhere.  The New York Times reported a rise in domestic violence cases globally where COVID-19 forced stay-at-home orders in an April 6 article.
"A lot of the abusers are home now, not working," said Deb Brownlee, Manager of TCN's Domestic Violence Program.  "Social activities have been restricted.  So the power and control issues are worse.  They are increasing.  The abusers feel like they can get away with it more than ever because they don't think the victim can get to help."
TCN staff are still available to provide support anytime through Telehealth video conferencing with clients or to meet at the courthouse.  Brownlee says that though many court cases dealing with domestic violence have been postponed, emergency protection orders can still be obtained.  
Social distancing measures have even caused modifications for how the shelter operates.  Brownlee says residents mostly stay in their bedrooms while rotating time in the kitchens and common areas.  There is emergency money to place survivors in hotels.  A pair of laptops were purchased so children staying there could complete their online school assignments.  Masks and gloves are worn and temperatures are taken every day.  They count their blessings that no one has fallen ill or even had a fever during the last month.  Surfaces are constantly wiped down and the entire shelter received a deep spring cleaning.
"We've used so much bleach everything should be white by now," Brownlee said.
Over the weekend, the shelter celebrated the generosity from a group of donors who presented $700 worth of Easter baskets, gift cards, and hand-written notes of encouragement for residents and staff.  "It gives me chills, it was so beautiful," Brownlee said.
Like everybody else, the shelter needs toilet paper, paper towels, masks, gloves, perhaps a scanning thermometer (they only have a traditional oral thermometer).  Cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and frozen microwave dinners are also on the shelter's wish list.  Monetary donations are always appreciated too.   
YOUR annual United Way donation supports TCN's Domestic Violence Program, including a $32,000 allocation for 2020. 
To reach out for help or to help, contact TCN's Domestic Violence Program at (937) 593-5777, the Soteria House at (937) 404-2365, or United Way at (937) 592-2886.
PHOTO CAPTION:  Regina Pursley and Keely Blair of TCN's Domestic Violence Program look at donation of Easter baskets and notes of encouragement given to for the shelter's residents over the weekend.