TEXAS--In the midst of a pandemic, home is supposed to be the safest place, but that’s not necessarily true for some Texans.
- Advocates saw increase in calls at outset of pandemic
- Decreased when shelter-in-place orders were instituted
- Want victims to know help remains available
Many communities are under stay-at-home orders with the intent of stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but it puts victims of abuse in a tough situation.
“Right before we went into shelter-in-place, when we knew something was gonna happen, we did see a pretty significant increase in our SAFELINE calls,” said SAFE Alliance’s Kelly White. “And then we moved into shelter-in-place. Then we saw that increase started settling down and, of course it did, because now people are at home and there is no safe place to call for help.”
Among those places are schools, which remain closed for a few more weeks.
“Schools are our number one reporter of abuse and neglect: teachers, administrators at school, counselors - and with that not being a means for reporting, we expect reporting to probably go down,” said Bexar County Child Welfare Board’s Marcie Trevino Ripper. “Which means kids could be at risk.”
A risk amplified by confinement.
“I think when people are forced to shelter in place with their batterer, the lethality increases,” explained Texas Advocacy Project’s Heather Bellino. “I think that stressors increase and the possibility of physical violence occurring for the first time will happen.”
But even with these orders, advocates want to clarify that asking for help doesn't break the law.
“One thing, you can step out of your home to take a walk and that might be something you need to do,” stressed White. “If someone feels they’re in immediate danger, they need to call 911.”
“The police are absolutely still there for you if you’re in a violent situation and you need help,” Bellino added.
The Texas Advocacy Project anticipates calls to spike again once stay-at-home orders are lifted because not only will people find a place to ask for help, they’ll also be seeking a permanent fix to their situations.