COVID-19 stay-at-home orders may put domestic violence and child abuse victims at risk

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Ohioans are being urged to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but home is not safe for everyone. Domestic violence and child abuse victims could now be quarantined with their abusers.
Staff at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center (DVCAC) fear they may soon be overwhelmed with calls. According to CEO Melissa Graves, calls to the center’s hot line are currently up 30% with about 20 calls coming in daily with victims in isolation or who are stuck at home because of COVID-19.

Graves says she expects more calls as Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order continues.

“88% of our calls come between 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. when abusers are typically at work,” she said. “You have additional anxiety and uncertainty with people who may be losing jobs or not be able to be working hours so there’s financial stress. If drinking is an issue in the family that now may be happening in the home. So all of these things are just happening all at the same time in a home where there was already anxiety, volatility, danger and abuse.”

Graves fears some victims may now be isolated from outside resources and may not be able to reach out or help

“If they’re at home with an abuser they may be monitoring their emails, their cell phone calls, their phone calls, their texts. It may be difficult for someone in that situation to even be reaching out in ways they might normally.”

But Graves says her team is doing what they can to help while urging victims to reach out in the safest way possible. The center’s hot line remains available 24/7. Victims can also reach out online through live web chats.

And while the center’s shelter is open for intake, despite limited availability, Graves says detailed safety plans are in place to get those in danger to a safe place.

“We are open. We are available. We are working we are there to support people in this situation right now.”

As their phones continue to ring, Graves says they need help from community to save those in need.

“We all need to be looking out for each other right now and if there were people in your life that you were concerned about before you know please be thinking about and figuring out ways to support that person because they may be in a dangerous situation,” she explained.

The DVCAC is also helping those who fear they may be at risk due to low-level offenders being released from the Cuyahoga County jail to help with the spread of COVID-19. Victims are urged to call police if they receive any threat or are in immediate danger.

Cuyahoga County courts remain open and can process protection orders and other resources for domestic violence victims. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) continues to investigate and take calls as well. DCFS can reached at 216-696-KIDS (5437). The Canopy Child Advocacy Center is also still assisting families and children in need.

If you have any concerns or need advice on helping a loved one, call 216-391-HELP (4357).



Author:  Taneisha Cordell

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