As we see cases of coronavirus rise in the Capital Region, being home has become part of the "new normal." Unfortunately for some, home is not a safe place to be.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says his office has been getting more calls for domestic violence amid quarantines.
“Domestic violence has seen a little bit of a spike in the past couple of days. We had a couple yesterday morning; another last night,” Apple said.
“Whenever you have close confinement like this for an extended period of time, yes, absolutely, we expect it. And then when we heard the liquor stores were going to be essential, we were like 'OK, it's going to be a game changer, too."
A victim being isolated with their abusers is a danger. However, Apple says there are still resources out there for those in need.
“I don’t want to see anyone living in a situation where they are fearful every day and constantly looking over their shoulder. Those services are still available,” Apple said.
Shelters, like the Unity House in Troy, are still open. All shelters are considered essential services.
“Just because it looks like the outside world is shut down, we’re still working. We know situations are getting worse, we’re still here,” said Sarah McGaughnea, Unity House's domestic violence service director, who added that staff there was preparing for a rise in these cases.
“They’re not going to have the opportunity to ask for help,” she added.
As the pandemic and the response to it continues, businesses are forced to make layoffs and schools have closed their doors. Unity House says these are added stressors which heighten the risk of abuse and lethality from abuse perpetrators. It says the times make it more daunting for victims to escape.
“There are children around now, right? Normally, victims are very fearful of just their perpetrators, but now they’re fearful of the world around them. But, I want them to know we are offering a safe place," McGaughnea said.
McGaughnea says Unity House's domestic violence hotline is available 24/7 at (518) 272-2370, and is completely anonymous. Crisis information and referrals are always available. The group is able to house anyone from Rensselaer County, and will be able to help provide access to services to those who live anywhere in the Capital Region.
The sheriff says despite the closures of the courts, abusers will still be held accountable. His office is now using video at the Albany County Jail to arraign those charged.
Apple says it's a system he's wanted to put in place long before the pandemic.
“You’re still going to get arraigned and have to come back to court at some time,” Apple said.
Currently, all protection from abuse orders has been extended amid the court’s closures.
Unity House offers several housing options so adults with mental illness, people with HIV/AIDS, people who are homeless, and victims of domestic violence can live safely and self-sufficiently in the community with dignity and independence.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).