Domestic violence calls on rise during pandemic

VIDEO: Domestic violence rises during Washington stay-at-home initiative

Domestic violence appears to be on the rise during the governor’s Stay at Home initiative.

By some estimates, domestic violence calls to the King County sheriff have risen about 8 percent.

Advocates say the pandemic creates new barriers for people in abusive relationships who want out.

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Social distancing and the stress of having to wear a mask for protection can mean isolation for those in abusive relationships, and that has meant more calls to law enforcement for help.

It can be difficult to determine from afar who is in an abusive relationship.

But advocates say when nearly everyone is on edge, relationships that are already violent, can become even more dangerous.

“There’s no question for people experiencing abuse, that are forced to be in constant proximity with their abusive partners and during a time of high stress, have heightened vulnerability,” says Susan Segall.

Segall runs New Beginnings, a Seattle-based advocacy group for those experiencing domestic violence. She says the stress of living with the threat of deadly COVID-19 can make getting help difficult.

“For many survivors, the opportunity — the safe and private opportunity — to reach out for support is no longer there,” she said.

A graph from the King County sheriff shows the number of domestic violence calls before the pandemic was relatively stable. But calls have risen dramatically as the governor has issued ever-tighter restrictions on our movements.

“The reason why they don’t want to leave is they are so afraid of the outburst,” says Aileen Sison.

Sison knows. She tried seven times before she was finally able to leave her abusive boyfriend. That was 10 years ago.

Still, she says those who are not safe at home should begin thinking of a way out.

“You just have to prepare,” she says, “Prepare your way to find some safety.”

She acknowledges, deciding to leave is among the most dangerous times for a survivor.

“Exactly,” she said. “Exactly.”

Advocates also say this is the time for family and friends to resist criticizing the survivor; just be there to help.

Help is also available through the New Beginnings 24 hour helpline.

Here is a link to their website: https://www.newbegin.org/

Click here for information on King County’s new online protection order option.