Domestic violence survivors face more obstacles in getting help during the pandemic

Domestic violence survivors face more obstacles in getting help during the pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Domestic violence experts in Charlotte are concerned about reports of more severe domestic violence incidents and the impending surge in calls for help once the outbreak ends.

The big picture: Spending more time at home over the last ten months has forced those facing domestic violence to spend more time with their abusers with little to no opportunity to safely seek help.

  • Oftentimes violence is reported through a child’s school or a doctor’s office or even at work, but most people haven’t been able to report this way over the last 10 months. It’s also been harder to identify child abuse for these same reasons.

By the numbers: Even before the pandemic it was hard to get accurate domestic violence data because so many incidents go unreported.

  • At the beginning of the pandemic there was a 40% increase in calls to the Greater Charlotte Hope Line. The hotline is now receiving about 850 calls a month compared to 700 before the pandemic.
  • The number of survivors staying in local shelters has remained consistent. Mecklenburg County has worked with shelters to make hotel rooms available for those who need them, which is important considering the increased danger of living in a congregate setting during the pandemic.
  • Safe Alliance’s Victim Assistance Court Program has seen a decrease in protective order requests. This could be because there’s confusion about whether county courts are open — they are and protective orders are still being issued.
  • CMPD reported a 16% increase in violent crime in 2020. [Go deeper]

Dig deeper: Elyse Hamilton-Childres, division director with Mecklenburg County Prevention and Intervention Services, says there’s been an increase in the severity of incidents reported, in part, because survivors may not be reaching out until the violence escalates.

  • Cases are also more complicated right now. Job instability and limited childcare options make it harder to create exit plans for victims trying to leave an unsafe household.
  • “Stress and circumstances such as loss of employment, mental health issues, substance use issues, can always contribute to the violence, they’re never the cause of violence,” Hamilton-Childres said. “The core reason for that dynamic is the desire to gain power and control over the other partner, and it’s an intentional pattern of actions to make that occur.”

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