As lockdown restrictions ease, more domestic violence survivors seek help

Updated: May. 26, 2020 at 9:17 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been concern for everyone’s safety but especially those considered our most vulnerable. That includes those who feel unsafe at the place they call home.

Sara Barber is the executive director with the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA). She says as the state begins to reopen, more people are reaching out for help.

Barber says survivors of domestic violence are, “really living in a crisis within a crisis and those safe homes, as we think of them, will not be safe for them.” Many survivors are potentially trapped inside with their abusers, with many people spending much more time at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, as restrictions begin to loosen up across the state, there has been in uptick in calls for help.

After reaching out to 35 organizations in 19 different states, NBC News is reporting that calls to domestic violence hotlines have more than doubled in several states recently, including in South Carolina.

Barber tells WIS-TV that this could be because it’s harder to call for help if your abuser is home more often. She says even having the kids at home with schools closed may make it more difficult to get away and make that call.

“At first, when the shelter at home orders came out or children were let out of schools, I think domestic violence victims were doing the same as everybody else was doing. They’re going to the grocery store. They’re trying to figure out how to teach their kids, and so now as those restrictions are easing, we’re seeing more people reaching out for help. SLED is reporting a 25% increase in charges from last week, over the same week in 2019. So, I think as things ease up, we will see more and more people coming forward to ask for help,” said Barber.

Barber also says some survivors have been more reluctant to seek hospital treatment, as people in general have been avoiding the hospital during the pandemic.

SCCADVASA wants people to know there are services available for anyone who may need help amid the coronavirus crisis. The agency has been working to support its partner organizations now facing less funding, but offering increased services like providing hotel rooms to limit the capacity inside shelters, and also investing in new technology to offer services remotely.

“Services are open and there are advocates there 24/7 to help them, and whether that means: helping them get to shelter, or to another sort of safe location, whether that means trying to set up some kind of tele-counseling with them, whether that means helping them find an attorney. We have a legal program at SCCADVASA that works with survivors on civil matters. Any of those things are still available to you, if you can find a way to safely call,” said Barber.

The executive director says our state sees “huge numbers” surrounding domestic violence. Last year, there were 18,000 calls to the 13 domestic violence programs in our state.

More than 5,500 people were provided with safe shelter and there were more than 27,000 other types of services provided. It’s not yet clear how these numbers will change, this year, because of COVID-19.

For more information on available resources for domestic violence survivors, visit:

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