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Domestic violence incidents spike during pandemic

Locations: News Published

What if all of a sudden you couldn’t get away from your abuser?

That is the awful nightmare victims of domestic violence, men as well as women, are facing in this pandemic environment.

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Initially, the number of reported abuse dropped significantly, according to Julie Olson, executive director, Advocate Safehouse Project in Glenwood Springs.

She explained many people were probably initially dealing with essential needs during state stay at home orders. These included food, financial stress, care of their children and simply because their abusers were also getting quite stressed. Also, experts agree that substance abuse has been an additional contributing factor in domestic violence. 

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People “just hunkered down,” she said.
However, after a month or two, reporting skyrocketed, and currently is 21 percent higher than the same time last year. 

Olson noted Advocate serves all of Garfield County (GarCo) and added, “Most of our clients live in the county, but others live in Eagle and Pitkin counties and work in GarCo.”

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“We don’t turn victims away. We work to connect them with helpful resources no matter where they are,” she maintained.

Response provides similar services to Pitkin and Eagle county residents. Executive Director Shannon Meyer confirmed Response assists people who may work in Aspen, but live in GarCo.
Response’s new Housing for Survivors Program, as explained on its website, focuses on getting survivors into stable housing while providing the necessary support as they rebuild their lives. A primary goal of the program is to help survivors of domestic violence achieve sustainable financial independence. Go to responsehelps.org for more information.

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With two abuse advocacy programs in the Valley, people who live or work anywhere from Parachute to No Name and Glenwood Springs to Aspen are covered.
Services these organization provide include help with emergency housing, court appearances, hospital accompaniment, immigration assistance, sexual harassment assistance and referrals to other community resources.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) posted Colorado statistics which showed 32.7 percent of women and 28.6 percent of men experience intimate partner physical violence or stalking. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crimes.

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NCADV has proposed regulations requiring law enforcement to confiscate firearms when responding to domestic violence incidents.

Meyer concluded that many victims stuck at home have not had many opportunities to call for help.

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At one point, Meyer said, a victim could write a specific code and give it to a pharmacy staff member who would call police. But, many abusers figured this out, and victims were stymied. 

Now, she noted, many communities require healthcare professionals to report signs of abuse. Plus, food delivery service employees may be able to bring back to work a note calling for help.

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However, when it comes to child victims, many schools are only doing distance learning, so teachers are not available to notice and report child abuse.

Fortunately, many advocacy groups and crisis helplines now offer texting options, Meyer added, and noted helpline calls went up by 40 percent, and 94 percent of callers or their abusers were unemployed.

Assistant director, Violence Free Colorado Amy Pohl reported the state has 40 advocacy groups, and all counties have coverage. 

Pohl confirmed that during most natural disasters, incident reporting numbers go up, “People are so scared,” but they feel they must reach out.
The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) has awarded nearly one million dollarsl to 38 community-based domestic violence programs to provide help and essential services to domestic violence survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocate Safehouse was among those supported.

Brooke Ely-Milen, director of the Domestic Violence Program of the Colorado Department of Human Services, announced October is National Violence Awareness Month. Since 1989, this project has provided community gatherings, education and support groups.
In 2018, the Domestic Violence Awareness Project developed a unified theme called “#1Thing.” The purpose of this campaign as noted on the NCADV website, is to remind everyone that ending domestic violence starts with just one small action, whether that is seeking help or sharing resources.
The most important things, experts agreed, is for victims to realize it’s not their fault, abuse isn’t love and home is not always the safest place to be.

Help Crisis Hotlines – All are available 24/7 and can provide bilingual assistance.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-SAFE (7233) with Text Option
TTY (TeleTYpe), TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf), and TT (Text Telephone) – 800-787−3224
Advocate Safehouse Hotline – 945-4439
Response Helps Hotline – 925-SAFE (7233)
Law Enforcement – (for critical situations) 911
Survivors – can text “loveis” to 22522

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