Augusta-area agencies anticipate influx of domestic violence reports after coronavirus restrictions lift – News – The Augusta Chronicle

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Local organizations have not seen an increase in calls and reports of domestic violence or abuse, but expect an influx once restrictions on coronaviruses are lifted.

“We are really concerned right now about victims of domestic violence because we know they are being quarantined and sheltered in place,” said Aimee Hall, executive director of SafeHomes Augusta.

SafeHomes offers victims of domestic violence resources and services to meet their needs. Hall said they’ve seen a decrease in the number of people they’ve hosted and the number of calls they’ve received, but for her the numbers can be misleading.

Hall said they expect an influx of calls once the restrictions are lifted and life is back to normal. Current restrictions, like the shelter in place, could impact the numbers as a victim might not have the freedom to call and spend more time at home with their abuser.

Hall said other circumstances due to the virus could be a factor in increasing domestic violence.

“A lot of businesses have closed, so the abuser isn’t going to work,” Hall said. “Abuse is about power and control. I think it can be intensified by stressors. You have people who are now on leave.[ed], laid off, which creates financial stress in the relationship. “

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Another population that could be severely affected are children.

“It can have a big impact on children. We know that one of the main ways that child abuse is reported is through schools,” said Kari Viola-Brooke, CEO of Child Enrichment . “When we have a shelter in place and the children are at home, they don’t have access to safe adults who can report when they suspect abuse.”

Child Enrichment has served abused and neglected children since its inception in 1978. Viola-Brooke said their biggest concern is with children in potentially dangerous situations, but has no adults to champion their cause.

Although the numbers are down, Viola-Brooke said that doesn’t mean fewer children are being abused, but rather fewer reports are being made. For her, this is a worrying time as many factors contribute to increasing stress at home in the current situation.

“We know that some of the factors that can impact abuse are parenting stress, a precarious financial situation and precarious housing, these are all issues that are affecting all families right now during the COVID-19 problem” said Viola-Brooke.

Similar to Hall, she expects, once the restrictions are lifted and the children returned to school, an increase in reports of child abuse. Teachers are usually the main informants of child abuse. Since children are out of school, it can be difficult for teachers to see a change in behavior.

With the move to virtual learning in all schools in the area, Viola-Brooke encourages teachers to, if they can, video chat with students and assess the situation to see if a child is acting differently or doing something different. he sees other concerns. This can be difficult because the child may not be alone or the abuser may be sitting in the same room.

“Even though children cannot see other adults, if they can communicate with them, whether it is by texting an adult who supports them in their life or by sending a message to their teacher or to their neighbor. to explain to them what’s going on, “she said. “What we really need is an adult to take action. If an adult has any suspicions, they have to report.”

For William Loomer, investigator of the Crimes Against the Vulnerable and the Elderly Task Force, the main concern is the elderly population, especially those living alone. He believes the current restrictions will make the situation worse for those likely to be isolated.

“People are less likely to knock on a neighbor’s door, they are less likely to watch people for several reasons. First, they don’t want to make a person sick or get sick and, second, their means. communication are diminished, ”Loomer said.“ The older population is less likely to have things like Facebook and social media to reach. We’re also seeing issues with care companies that are understaffed because they don’t want to go into those homes. “

CAVE has not seen an increase in the number of calls, but Loomer said it is important for family members to constantly monitor the elderly and even more during these times and also if they are in a personal care home. Family members should contact them by phone, see each other through a window, or even leave their groceries at the door.

“Always keep some kind of communication,” he said. “It will also contribute to the mental well-being of the elderly person. “

Loomer said they’ve tweaked their operations slightly by responding in the field only to critical situations, but still take calls and conduct investigations. At SafeHomes, Hall said they continue to operate on their 24/7 schedule, and will continue to provide services and resources to those in need.

All three encouraged the community to contact local law enforcement if they have any suspicion or are concerned about a situation of domestic violence. Hall said neighbors should call 911 first and not intervene if they hear something going on in someone else’s house.

“If there is imminent danger, that community member or neighbor is doing their part by calling 911,” she said. “I never suggest if a neighbor hears something going on in someone else’s house that they step in because we don’t know if there are guns, we don’t know what is happening in the house. “

Hall said it’s important to remember that even though the number of domestic violence reports is on the decline, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

“We still have to talk about the subject. Just because there is a virus here does not mean that domestic violence has stopped,” she said. “I think it’s going to increase and we’ll feel the surge once the shelter-in-place is lifted and people can return to work.”

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