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Fewer domestic violence calls doesn’t translate to less abuse

Florida’s domestic violence centers want you to know they are open and ready to help

Refuge House
Refuge House (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s domestic violence centers want you to know they are open and ready to help in this time of crisis.

The number of calls to hotlines is falling, but that doesn’t mean there is less domestic violence.

Mondays are typically the busiest day of the week for domestic violence hotlines and shelters.

“The abuser has gone to work after the weekend. The children are at school. She’s got a minute to collect her thoughts alone to be able to safely make that call,” said Meg Baldwin, director of Refuge House in Tallahassee.

But not this past Monday.

“Typically on a Monday, we’ll receive between 30 and 40 calls from domestic violence victims who are reaching out after a weekend. This last Monday, we had fewer than five calls,” Baldwin said.

Increasing stress at home and at work is one of the reasons the Florida governor is resisting a statewide shelter-in-place order in response to the new coronavirus.

“I really worry about suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse if this is allowed to go for months and months on end with nothing,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

While Florida courts have virtually shut down, they are open to abuse victims who need protective or restraining orders.

At Refuge House, counseling calls to some victims are being answered by spouses, complicating the recovery.

“Where the victim is isolated and there is a greater opportunity presented to an abuser to hurt her, we’ll see the incidence of domestic violence rise. That doesn’t mean, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a victim being able to reach out for help,” Baldwin said.

The centers say they see the same lowered activity following a hurricane, but it only lasts four or five days.

The current lack of opportunity could last for months.

Sexual assault victims are also being urged to continue coming forward with the assurances they won’t have to go to a hospital to have a sexual assault kit captured for evidence.

At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, advocates are available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone in the United States who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. Resources and help can be found by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).