MIAMI — With stay-at-home orders and quarantine measures taken to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of domestic violence incidences could increase.
"Women in abusive relationships are more likely to be exposed to violence, as are their children, as family members spend more time in close contact, and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses," World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an online statement.
Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd said, “There has been an increase in domestic violence here. Another thing we have noticed is that residential burglaries are down, but business thefts have picked up. A lot of other crimes have decreased, but domestic violence is on the rise.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, Floyd recommends that they contact his office, any of the advocacy centers in the area, or call 911.
If you feel tension between you and your partner, loved ones, roommates, or friends, try to separate and let things cool down. Try not to stay in the same area.
“We haven’t noticed a significant increase in Miami, which is very good,” Miami Police Chief Thomas Anderson said. “If you do experience violence, I recommend you contact the police so we can respond and intervene. During this stressful time it’s important to find things to do to relieve stress — take a walk or work out — for everybody. That stress can build up when you are confined at home. People need an outlet to deal with it without resorting to domestic violence.”
Kelsey Samuels, Executive Director of the Community Crisis Center (CCC), also known as the Fern L. Holland Advocacy Center, in Miami, noted that many victims of domestic violence, the outside world is safer than the home they live in.
“Uncertainty and rising tensions associated with the COVID-19 can escalate already existing violence and leave victims and their children vulnerable in their home,” Samuels said. “Leaving can be even more difficult since many Americans are now required to quarantine or work from home. This means the abuser may constantly be in the house with the victim. With social distancing being encouraged, there may not be anyone to notice the signs of something wrong.”
The CCC continues to provide advocacy and shelter services and its 24/7 hotline can provide safety planning with victims that can't leave to meet with an advocate.
A safety plan can help minimize the risk from the abuser and help the victim make a plan for cases where they no longer feel like they can stay safe in their home.
The CCC is also now offering an online chat option where victims can chat with an advocate Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The chat service can be accessed at https://www.resourceconnect.com/ccc/chat
And they are working with counselors who are willing to provide TeleHealth sessions to clients during this difficult time.
The hotline is number is 800-400-0883. Services are free, confidential and advocates are standing by. You can also log onto www.getmeout.org
The CCC needs local donations to help support operations at this time as well as in-kind donations of single serve and microwaveable food options, snacks, drinks, paper ware and baby wipes.
Donors can arrange a drop off time at 918-540-2432.
Last Friday, two dozen U.S. senators from nearly 20 states sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking the Trump administration to allow agencies that support domestic violence victims and their children to be flexible and accessible throughout the pandemic.
“An unintended but foreseeable consequence of these drastic measures will be increased stress at home, which in turn creates a greater risk for domestic violence,” the senators wrote.
Many victims of domestic violence decide not to leave. Some, advocates say, have refused to seek medical treatment for fear of contracting the virus at a hospital or clinic. Others refuse to seek help from friends or relatives for fear they could expose people they care about.
Work and school are safe havens for many victims and canceled school mean that more than 50 million students are spending their days at home rather than at school.
Domestic violence incidents tend to increase after natural disasters, financial downturns, and even major sporting events. In countries and states where the coronavirus first spread, organizations that work to protect women from violence have already reported a jump in cases.
And the risk to domestic violence victims could outlast the virus itself, advocates warn. Financial stress from lost jobs and the possibility of a worldwide recession can add strain to situations and make it more difficult for people to leave abusive relationships.
In addition, an increase in alcohol use, which in turn increases the likelihood of violence, is a possibility as liquor stores in the area and around the country have been deemed essential and are allowed to stay open during the quarantine and shutdowns.
Cities and states pausing evictions, providing economic relief, and streamlining unemployment benefits claims will help survivors of abuse. An advocacy group has asked Congress and state lawmakers to provide funding for domestic violence relief, including hotel nights for survivors who have to isolate or quarantine, but can’t in a shelter or at home.
If you need other assistance, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 800-799-SAFE or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Oklahoma Domestic Violence SAFELINE can be reached at 800-522-7233.
There are also resources at the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault by calling 405-524-0700 or logging onto www.ocadvsa.org
There is also the District Attorney’s Council — Domestic Violence Assistance, designed for information and assistance to victims and those who provide services to victims. Log onto https://www.ok.gov/dac/Victims/Domestic_Violence_Assistance/index.html for more.
There are also national resources online where you can learn more detailed information about living with or helping a loved one cope with abuse and violence.