Coronavirus stresses lead to spike in domestic violence shelter calls

Coronavirus

An advocate works in a cubicles at the National Domestic Violence Hotline center’s new facility, Monday, June 27, 2016, in Austin, Texas. The center, which handles more that 1,000 calls, chats and texts per day, has doubled both its phone service stations and digital services stations. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s not uncommon to see an uptick in domestic violence in the middle of a natural disaster, experts say.

In that regard, a global pandemic is no different.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve had about 115 calls for service,” Taylor Withers with Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) in St. Peterburg said. “We have had about 30 hearings scheduled, which the supreme court deemed as essential, so survivors can still access our legal advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Five survivors living in the shelter have already lost their jobs and two survivors have had their hours cut. Numerous others have lost their childcare.

With CASA’s services as their only saving grace, domestic abuse survivors rely on community support through donations to be able to utilize the sometimes lifesaving services provided by the shelter.

“We hope that people will still donate because we still have employees and staff that need to be paid while supporting these survivors,” Withers said. “People don’t like to talk about domestic violence because it makes them feel bad, but many people are wanting to help neighbors and it’s very likely that your neighbors are experiencing some version of this because one in three women and one in four men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.”

In 2018 alone, there were more than 6,300 domestic violence reports in Pinellas County. Those statistics usually spikes during widespread events, Withers says. Particularly in dire situations when people are stuck in social isolation, tensions rise.

CASA also saw an increase in calls following Hurricane Irma.

“These events don’t turn people into abusers,” Withers said. “But they do make things more stressful for everyone. We foresee as time goes on and kids are out of school, calls for service will go up because of the tensions of losing jobs and financial struggles that follow can exacerbate domestic violence issues.”

Now, with no foreseeable timeline of when the pandemic will end, Withers says the organization is adapting, conducting intakes through what they call tech advocacy to continue helping nonresidential survivors and keeping essential staff like attorneys.

To donate to CASA’s work with domestic abuse survivors, click here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call CASA’s 24-hour hotline at (727) 895-4912.

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