Quarantine helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut, but it contributed to a surge in domestic violence.
“We’re seeing remarkable upticks in the need for help,” Karen Jarmoc, the president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence said Tuesday during a panel. “Despite these increases, help is available 24/7.”
COVID-19 has intensified problems like unemployment, day care shortages and substance abuse, and these issues have, in turn, aggravated tensions in households. Coupled with stay-at-home advice, victims of domestic violence are finding themselves locked up with their abusers, often with no way out.
In Connecticut, domestic violence advocacy groups have seen inbound calls increase by 71%. Executive Director of the Network Against Domestic Abuse Karen Foley O’Connor said she expects further spikes after the holiday season and at the start of the new year.
Additionally, shelters are at 150% capacity — the additional 50% of survivors are being housed in hotels, which is having a great, unanticipated financial toll of about $500,000 on agencies, Jarmoc said.
And with courts closed due to the virus, victims are seeing their legal remedies severely affected. In the summer, when the state somewhat reopened, there was a huge rise in cases being prosecuted, according to O’Connor.
“We saw a spike of DV arrests happening, as well as the courts getting back into their protocols and abusers having to go to court to answer to charges,” she said, adding that she foresees a doubling of calls in January.
But there is help. The state is working on funding for domestic violence organizations, according to Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and agencies always welcome donations.
Moreover, advocacy services have gone virtual, and the pandemic has brought about the creation of an online restraining order application.
“This is a viable option for victims even after the pandemic,” Jarmoc said.
Centers are also reaching out to children and young adults to teach them the signs of domestic abuse, as they are missing that education in school because of the pandemic.
Suzanne Adam, executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, said it’s very beneficial for community members to lend an ear to those in their lives who could be victims of domestic violence.
“I think it’s important that we all do a collective wellness check with one another, make sure that we are supporting one another, and again understand that domestic violence is a process,” Adam said.
“Help is available whether you’re in crisis or you just need a gentle voice to talk to on the other side of the line to talk through some challenges,” she added.