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Domestic violence organizations anticipate calls for help as coronavirus restrictions ease

Posted at 11:25 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 23:25:12-04

Domestic violence organizations are anticipating a flood of abuse victims seeking help in the weeks and months to come.

The city's shutdown confined New Yorkers to their homes and for domestic abuse victims, that has been more than three months of quarantine with their abusers. The stay-at-home order meant to safeguard them from COVID-19 exposed them to another deadly threat: that of domestic violence.

Stephanie Nilva, the executive director of Day One, an organization that provides help for teens and adults up to age 24, said she anticipates changes once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

"Once people are freer to leave their homes and they get more time alone, you're going to see a greater outreach looking for assistance," said Nilva.

Compared to this same time a year ago, New York State has seen a devastating 33% increase in domestic violence incidents, and that's just the cases reported.

"We know there are lot of instances when people are unwilling or unable to speak to law enforcement or to report it while at home," said Nilva.

Cases have spiked nationwide. Earlier this month, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged the Senate to pass an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, which has already been approved by the House but has stalled in the Senate. The Act funds shelters, housing and counseling for abuse victims.

"It's done a world of good in protecting spouses from abuse, usually women who are abused by husbands or boyfriends," said Schumer. "Will Leader McConnell hear it? If he were to put the Violence Against Women Act on the floor, given its proven track record of success, it would pass."

Experts have compared sheltering in place with your abuser to a hostage situation. The abuser is monitoring you 24/7.

Nilva said young people up to age 24 suffer the highest rates of domestic violence.

"Young adults who are confined with an abusive partner could be facing violence in the home and could be unable to reach out for assistance," said Nilva. "Someone could be monitoring their devices, keeping them from making phone calls, staying with them at all times and all those people could be experiencing physical assault, sex assault."

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, Day One has resources.

More resources are available here and at the numbers below.

NYC/Safe Horizon Domestic Violence hotline: 1-800-621-HOPE

New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906