Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and those who work with victims of domestic violence said today that the current pandemic may have a significant impact on abuse cases across the nation. They urge those experiencing domestic violence or who witness abusive behavior to call 911 and to reach out to other local, state and national resources for help.
"Most of us are feeling a certain loss of control in our lives, but what we know is that batterers who experience a loss of power and control may escalate their violence," said Amy Evans, Executive Director of the Friendship Home, which offers emergency shelter, transitional housing and crisis services for victims of domestic violence. "Women are trapped at home 24-7 with batterers who don't leave to go to work, who can focus all their attention on their victims. There is no respite from the emotional and physical violence."
Evans said victims may be reluctant to contact medical professionals now because they fear exposure to the virus. She said batterers may withhold insurance cards or prevent the victim from accessing health care.
"Stress, job loss, and other COVID-19 pressures do not cause abuse, however, abusers do take advantage of stressful situations to gain more control," said Marcee Metzger, Executive Director of Voices of Hope, which provides confidential 24-hour-a-day crisis intervention services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and related forms of abuse. "Isolation is a primary tactic used by perpetrators to control victims, and this is exacerbated under self-isolation and quarantine."
Data gathered by the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) show that over the last seven weeks of increased social distancing, weekly average calls related to domestic disturbances have decreased 20.5 percent, and weekly average calls for domestic assaults have decreased 9.6 percent, but Mayor Gaylor Baird said those statistics don't tell the complete story.
"This does not necessarily mean that domestic violence is occurring less frequently, as some victims may have a harder time reporting abuse if they are spending a greater amount of time with their abuser," Gaylor Baird said. She noted a New York Times article in which the chief executive of the National Domestic Violence Hotline said she expects the intensity and frequency of abuse to increase even if the number of individual cases does not, as this has been the pattern observed following other traumatic events, such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, 9/11, and the economic downturn of 2008.
Evans and Metzer said abuse can be verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, psychological, or economic. Signs of an abusive relationship may include physical violence; preventing access to family finances; destroying property; monitoring or controlling where a partner goes and whom they see; and unwanted or forced sexual activity.
"For those who are living in an unsafe environment, we want you to know that help is available," said Gaylor Baird. "We encourage anyone who believes they are experiencing domestic violence or who witnesses abusive behavior to call 911. The Lincoln Police Department is always available to respond to suspected domestic violence. For those who may not feel comfortable or who are unable to call the police, there are many community resources available to help as well."
Metzger said victims can use a charged cell phone to call 911 even if the cell phone service has been terminated. In addition to calling law enforcement, the following resources are available:
Protection orders are still being processed in Lancaster County. The following assistance is available for those seeking protection orders: