Rates for domestic violence and child abuse are rising with COVID-19, but there are still resources out there.
According to Sheriff of Cherokee County, South Carolina, Steve Mueller in an NBC News article, the rates of domestic violence have increased by 35 percent in March compared to February due to COVID-19.
Prevention Education and Advocacy Center Coordinator Samantha Dickens said increasing rates of domestic violence and child abuse may result from families being stuck in close quarters.
“In all my research recently [through] the pandemic in domestic violence and child abuse, it’s definitely a concern that the domestic violence rates and child abuse rates will go up because people are in close quarters and because the resources that are usually available may not be as easily available,” Dickens said.
Dickens said these rates ordinarily rise in the wake of a disaster or pandemic.
“Past research shows that during major disasters and pandemics, like Hurricane Harvey ... domestic violence and child abuse cases do rise fairly significantly during those times,” Dickens said.
She said resources are more limited now, and shelters have even less space.
“Shelters might have anywhere from as few as five or 10 beds to 30 beds or 40 beds, it just kind of just depends on the size,” Dickens said. “They’re having to make decisions about, ‘Are we going to fill beds that come open, [or] are we going to keep them aside for people who might have been exposed to COVID-19 who might be getting sick so they can quarantine away from everyone else?’”
Dickens said children have lost access to many of the places that have individuals trained in recognizing abuse signs.
“With child abuse, one of the safety nets is children go to daycare, they go to school, they go to other peoples’ houses, they go to church — they’re not doing any of those things,” Dickens said. “So the providers who would usually be trained to recognize signs of child abuse aren’t seeing those children.”
According to Dickens, domestic violence services often go to victims as well as their children. However, due to most child abusers being the parent or guardian and the child not being able to leave on their own, there are resources available to specifically help children in these circumstances.
Dickens recommends contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline for domestic violence concerns.
“The National Domestic Violence Hotline, they do a call and a chat function that is a really great place to go if you don’t know your locals. You can call that and they’ll link you to your local resources,” Dickens said.
National Domestic Violence Hotline Advocate Chad Thomas said their resources are limited due to COVID-19, but they are working to continue providing assistance and are still fully functional online.
“With COVID-19, we’re still getting resources that are available, but a lot of it is just validating their experiences and also planning for when this is over with because we understand that it’s not going to be forever, that when those resources do open up to full capacity, they can have a plan of action to work with,” Thomas said.
Thomas said although it is difficult to work without all resources available, it gives more time to help victims plan their steps in staying safe.
“The plus side of this is it gives a little bit more time to plan and get to that safe point they’re looking to get at,” Thomas said.
Another resource available for domestic violence support is the Oasis Women’s Center, located in Alton, Illinois.
Oasis Women’s Center Plans Service Coordinator Marcy Jacobs said they are available to call 24 hours a day.
“For help they can just call [465-1978], and it’s answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to have them ask for whatever it is they need. We’ll talk with them and try to help them,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said they offer a variety of resources but are forced to move primarily online given the current circumstances.
“We offer a 24-hour hotline, temporary shelter, walk-in counseling and legal advocacy,” Jacobs said. “We’re doing most of our counseling now by telephone. The shelter is still open.”
Dickens said the best resources to reach out to for child abuse cases are the Illinois DCFS Child Abuse Reporting Hotline and the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline for reporting, general information and guidance.
While the Illinois DCFS Child Abuse Reporting Hotline is designed for reporting cases of child abuse, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is aimed at deciding what steps to take or to learn more about child abuse.
Dickens said along with the resources available, people looking at these cases from the outside in can provide support as well.
“For anyone who is on the outside looking in and might want to help, someone who maybe has a neighbor or a friend or family member that they’re connecting with digitally and they’re concerned about them, one of the best things that they can do is let them know, ‘Hey, I’m worried about you because I’ve seen this, this and this. How can I help?’” Dickens said.
For more information go to Illinois DCFS Child Abuse Reporting Hotline, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Prevention Education and Advocacy Center and the Oasis Women’s Center websites.
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