Every day more people are being locked in their houses with their abusers to slow the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, domestic abuse is on the rise. Photo by Nickelle Blanton.
Utah is experiencing an increase in domestic violence due to COVID-19, which has many couples and families staying in close quarters with their abusers.
An abuser can use physical, material, verbal, mental or sexual abuse against their target.
With the stay at home order in place, there is no escape to work or any other usual reprieve; however, that’s not the only reason domestic violence has gone up. The stress associated with COVID-19 is also a factor in the rise of domestic violence.
Lindsey Boyer, executive director of the Dove Center, said she is seeing a rise in Utah county but has not yet seen a rise in the numbers in St. George.
“Law enforcement sees these cases first,” Boyer said. “[Those suffering abuse] have to come to us.”
With having an abuser constantly in the home, reaching out for help becomes increasingly difficult. The abused become trapped in a space with no mental or physical breaks from the trauma.
With thousands of people out of work, the stress to provide can turn to resentment and makes the other person an easy target, Boyer said.
Markee Pickett, Dove Center communication manager, said the center is paying attention to numbers and does expect a rise in Washington County within the next few weeks. The Dove Center is still offering what help it can while moving to an online forum.
The center can still provide legal and health counseling via video chat and a 24-hour helpline for sexual assault and rape survivors.
The housing and shelter resource is still being worked out as COVID-19 is still at large.
In the midst of the rise of abuse, some have gone online recognizing the need for help and are offering to call the police for those victims unable to. On Facebook, others are offering to help by having you order a specific item or using a code word.
Some pharmacies have been offering the same services when you go pick up a prescription. Since the pharmacy already has your address, you say the phrase or word that provides them the go-ahead to call law enforcement.
If that’s not an option, Boyer said she suggests meeting with a neighbor if possible and getting a code word that will alert them to call police. This can also be used if you need shelter and they can provide it.
“People may be afraid to reach out,” Boyer said. “It was already a private violence and now even more so.”
If you know someone or suspect someone may be experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the local St. George police at 435-627-4300 or the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition at 1-800-897-5465.
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