COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus police say the pandemic is causing an increase in domestic violence cases.
But despite the increase in cases, the number of calls has not increased.
According to numbers provided by Columbus Police, the number of domestic violence calls last month averaged 96 each day.
That’s up only slightly from 95 in August last year.
Despite that, the department says they are seeing more incidents of domestic violence, especially since the start of the pandemic.
“So once the Governor (Mike DeWine) had the stay-at-home order and people were forced to quarantine with each other, in essence, it divided more families than brought them together with that stress,” said Sgt. James Fuqua.
On top of that, the department is worried about cases that aren’t being reported by minors.
“The numbers would be even higher if kids were in schools. We get a significant amount from our schools because when a child goes to school, it is the schools responsible to report that and when they report it, they report it to us and we investigate it,” Fuqua said. “So there are hundreds and hundreds of kids in the city right now that are suffering from domestic abuse or domestic violence at home because they’re not in school and there’s no way to report that.”
Even then, it’s hard to investigate cases because victims of all ages can often be uncooperative.
“We don’t have a magic elixir or any other way we can investigate it outside of people calling us or the victim coming forward themselves,” Fuqua said. “They do not want to cooperate or they don’t want to tell us so that code of silence is a real thing and they continue to be abused by the abuser. Some of these abusers have a past of hurting other people and eventually that could lead to that person’s death or serious injury. Without the cooperation and help from the victim themselves, it’s very hard to tell what is happening behind closed doors in someone’s home.
“If you’re at home, you’re not supposed to leave and your abuser is at home with you, how do you call and ask for help?” said Mary O’Doherty, Executive Director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.
Many Ohio domestic violence programs are about to have their federal funding cut by a third due to a loss in Victims of Crime Act grant dollars. That would impact everything from emergency shelters for short-term safety to legal services for long-term safety.
“Outside of the immediate crisis, how are we going to make sure a year down the road, she is still safe and she has those things in place so that she doesn’t end up in the same situation? We’re able to get civil protection orders for victims and survivors up to five years which really gives those individuals an additional tool to stay safe from their abuse and can really allow them to have that protection as they move their life forward without their abuser and their relationship,” said Kate McGarvey, executive director of the Ohio State Legal Services Association.
“Organizations locally are hurting that typically help our domestic violence victims and because of that, we are seeing more and more domestic violence and the lack of getting them resources is very troubling,” Fuqua said.
If you or someone you know needs the help of a domestic violence program, you can find a list of resources here.