Domestic abuse cases could escalate during coronavirus crisis: experts

Courtesy of New York Post: [https://nypost.com/2020/04/02/domestic-abuse-cases-could-escalate-during-coronavirus-crisis/]

April 02 del 2020

 

Victims of domestic violence stuck at home amid the coronavirus pandemic and facing economic burdens that the crisis brings with it could experience increased and even more violent abuse, experts warn.

“Domestic violence escalates — it often starts out with verbal abuse, criticism, moves on to threats, and then so often physical abuse and sexual abuse,” Dorchen Leidholdt, the director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at the nonprofit Sanctuary for Families told The Post Thursday.

“Any reasonable person would conclude escalation will be faster and the level of danger — and heaven forbid lethality — is greater than ever,” Leidholdt said.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s call, chat and text volume has remained in the average 1,800 to 2,000 per day range, according to CEO Katie Ray-Jones, but the hotline has seen an increased number in victims reaching out who are “concerned with COVID-19 and how their abusive partner is leveraging COVID-19 to further isolate, coerce, or increase fear in the relationship.”

A total of 1,765 victims who contacted the hotline from Mar. 16 through Tuesday cited coronavirus “as a condition of their experience,” Ray-Jones said.

Meanwhile, in New York City domestic violence crime has been down – though experts say that’s because it’s harder for victims to call for help when stuck at home with an abuser.

“Remember that once you’re trapped in with your abuser, not only is it hard for you to reach out for help, it’s also the severity of the situation because people have fear over COVID-19,” said domestic violence survivor Carmen Rivera, who runs a city non-profit Divine Heart Inc., which works with survivors of abuse.

“So they rather stay in the abusive relationship or situation rather than reach out because it’s an uncertainty,” Rivera explained.

Rivera noted that advocates’ “hearts are aching” due the unreported abuse going on amid the virus outbreak.

“We are in complete distress because we know there is much abuse going on and it’s not being reported and it will not be reported,” Rivera said.

Jane Manning, the director of the Women’s Equality Justice Project and a former Queens sex-crimes prosecutor, added that domestic violence victims typically reach out for help when their abuser is not around.

“When you are locked in a house with your abuser, those opportunities may become impossible to find,” Manning said.

In the year to date through Tuesday, domestic violence crime in New York City was down 0.6 percent, the NYPD said Thursday.

Domestic violence crime was down 15.3 percent for the entire month of March with 902 cases that month, compared to1,065 cases for the same period last year, according to NYPD statistics.

“Seeing fewer calls does not mean victims are safer. Seeing fewer 911 calls means victims are unable to get help they desperately need,” Leidholdt explained.

Arrests in domestic violence crimes were also down 15.6 percent for a 28-day period ending Mar. 29.

The NYPD said its team of “committed domestic violence officers are working vigorously to take reports and check in on New Yorkers in all five boroughs amid this ongoing coronavirus crisis.”

Officers are conducting phone calls in replace of face-to-face visits, “sharing safety plans and cell phone access with them and carefully setting code words for them to use as they survive in close quarters,” the department said.

In the past, most communications with victims were done face-to-face and in the home, police said, but that has now changed in order to comply with the social distancing orders amid the coronavirus outbreak.

If you or someone you know is in danger of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or Safe Horizon at 1-800-621-HOPE

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