Shelter in Place Increases Domestic Abuse and Violence
By edhat staff
Local authorities report an increase in domestic violence as non-profits urge members of the public to stay safe while sheltering in place during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
During a press conference last week, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown discussed a decrease in overall crime due to the public health order requiring everyone to stay in their homes. Except, there has been a significant uptick in domestic disturbances, Brown said.
District Attorney also Joyce Dudley discussed "in-home crimes," such as domestic violence, spousal rape, child abuse, elder abuse, and animal abuse that are occurring throughout the county. The increase of these crimes are due to people being under a tremendous amount of stress, being around drugs and alcohol, and feeling frustrated and anxious without an end in sight, said Dudley at a press conference on Monday.
She emphasized how these crimes will be under-reported as everyone shelters in place and stressed that victims need to pick up the phone and call 9-1-1 for help.
"The one thing you can't do is stay home and abuse or stay home and be an abused victim, make those calls," said Dudley.
Several local nonprofits and resource centers are providing services for those in need. Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS) stated they are expecting to see increased levels of violence in the home as isolation is one of the main ways abusers maintain control. "We want survivors to know that they are not alone... we are still here and providing safe shelter," DVS stated.
DVS operates a crisis and informational hotline that's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 805-963-4458. They also offer therapy and counseling, housing assistance, and job/life skills assistance through the phone or video conferencing.
“Our most vulnerable neighbors bear the heaviest burden in times of crisis,” said Jan Campbell, executive director of DVS. “Our entire staff is committed to our mission of providing safety, shelter and support to victims of domestic violence and their families – we are here for you.”
The Family Service Agency (FSA) helps the community’s most vulnerable children, families, and seniors meet their basic needs while simultaneously addressing mental health needs. With the COVID-19 pandemic, their work continues to keep them safe. The majority of their services have moved online or through the phone as they're still available for anyone who needs help.
“In light of the imposed COVID-19 self-quarantines, school closures, and business restrictions, we fully expect the needs for mental health counseling and family support services to increase over the coming weeks,” said Lisa Brabo, FSA Executive Director. “FSA is prepared to continue vital services in the safest manner possible and in accordance with public health guidelines.”
Additionally, FSA and Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center launched a program for parents to call in, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and receive free and confidential parenting and relationship support. Parents looking for encouragement, to expand their coping capacity, or to promote deeper connections with their partner or children should initially call into the warm line or email a parent educator. Subsequent consultations can take place via phone, FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp, or other application. For phone numbers, email addresses, and details, visit fsacares.org/parent-coaching.
CALM (Child Abuse, Listening, Mediation) is also providing clinical services by phone and offers support to maintain a healthy environment during these tense times.
"Not only do children absorb the growing family and societal fears, but high levels of tension put them at greater risk. As a pandemic grows outside our walls, there is a quiet epidemic happening behind closed doors," said Alana Walczak, CEO of CALM.
For anyone in an abusive situation, safety planning is key. Below are the following safety strategies recommended by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):
- Make a list of supportive people to have regular check-ins with via phone or video chat
- Take breaks outside, keeping social distancing in mind
- Consider what places in your home are easy to get in and out of during a conflict
- Create a code word to share with your support network that indicates you are in need of immediate help
- Make and hide an “escape bag” with your important documents, medicine, keys and other items
- Be gentle with yourself; you’re doing the best you can
For more information on local services call 211.