The isolation that is meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 has left some of the area’s most vulnerable residents in even greater peril.
Those who live with domestic violence in their homes are facing more challenges in getting help than in the regular course of things, and the social distancing required to stop the spread of COVID-19 has left them even more exposed to dangers at home.
Several local county leaders have recently said domestic violence is on the rise. However, a check with local law enforcement authorities shows that the number of calls for domestic violence hasn’t increased.
“It is the intensity of the calls that has changed,” said Executive Director of the Grayson Crisis Center Shelli Shields. However, she did say the number of calls to their hot-line has increased over the past week or so.
Shields said it is harder on people living in abusive homes right now because a lot of their avenues for escape and reprieve from the abusers are cut off if they are not going to work or taking part in social interactions like visiting with friends and family. Often, she said, abusers attempt to isolate their victims from the outside world to hide the abuse but in this case, the government and health experts are telling people to stay home which could play into that abuser’s ability to exert control over the abused.
A lot of the time, she said, the third party calls that they get from people reporting abuse come from those who have come into contact with a victim of abuse at work, school, church or some other social setting and noticed changes in that person’s appearance or manner that indicate that the person is being abused.
Shields said it is important for people to understand that the Crisis Center is still open and the hotline is still being manned. They understand that it might be harder to make a voice call with the abuser in the home, so they are working on getting a texting option opened up. They are still taking people with emergency situations into the shelter even though they are having to work with social distancing restrictions there just like other public institutions. They are also still sending out people to be with those who report being sexually assaulted.
Knowing that people might be trapped in their homes with an abuser and not feel like they can take that large and, often, dangerous step to leave right now, Shields said they are still working with people over the phone to make emergency exit plans and to find ways to cope with their situation that do not increase their danger.
She said people who find themselves confined to a place with someone who has abused in them in the past and might do so again should find a way put as much distance between themselves and that person as possible. However, she said, the abused person knows their abuser better than anyone so they know what is likely to set off an episode and what is not. She suggested that until the abused person can find a way to leave the home, they should do all they can to keep things on an even keel for the abuser.
If that is not possible and the abuse continues or escalates, then they should call the hotline or 9111. The help is still there, she said, even in this time of social distancing and concerns over COVID-19.