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Organizations continue work to curb domestic violence and abuse during pandemic

Updated: Apr. 3, 2020 at 2:52 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As Lowcountry communities enforce “stay at home” ordinances, organizations want to protect people who may have increased risks at home.

From social media campaigns, to online chats with counselors, advocacy groups are looking to new ways to reach out to people.

Tri-County support program People Against Rape is working to start a new online chat group with the assistance of the The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

“Survivors will be able to talk with staff and remain completely anonymous if they so choose,” PAR Interim Executive Director Djuanna Brockington said. “Our training will be completed next week and the site will be up and running shortly thereafter.”

According to the Charleston County Sheriff’s office, domestic violence calls increased from 61 in January to 80 in February. But, that number actually decreased throughout March to 73.

Also, data released by Charleston County dispatch shows an increase for domestic violence calls from 2019 to 2020 from January through April 2 in both Charleston city and county.

All other municipalities like Mount Pleasant and North Charleston island saw little change or a decrease in calls from this time last year.

Tosha Connors is the CEO My Sister’s House, a Lowcountry shelter and advocacy program for victims of domestic violence.

Connors said while they have not received an increase in calls to their hotline over the past few weeks, she expects an influx as more people self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we expect is that as people sort of get used to this new normal and put new routines in place, that they’re going to start to break down,” Connors said. “Were gearing up for an increase in calls and services in the next three to four weeks.”

Connors said the organization plans to release new online tools today for people on social media to reach others who may be at risk inside their homes.

“So it’s for people who want to download graphics and sample language that they can put on their social media pages,” Connors said. “It’s really about getting the word out that we’re still available.”

Dr. Carole Swiecicki with the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center said child abuse reports across the tri-county have remained consistent, but extended school closures could make it more difficult for people to report abusive family environments.

“What we really think right now is that the combination of social isolation and stress puts a fair amount of children at risk for increased abuse,” Swiecicki said. “But they’re not necessarily, right now, in a position to be interacting with people like teachers or others who make reports.”

People experiencing a potentially dangerous situation can reach out law enforcement and a number of local organizations:

My Sister’s House: 24-hour crisis line - 843-744-3242

People Against Rape (PAR): 24-hour hotline - 843-745-0144

Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center

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