COVID-19 isolation causing rise in domestic violence in Texas, across country

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — While some stay home to stay safe during the pandemic, survivors of domestic violence can find themselves trapped in violent households.

“One in three Texans will experience domestic violence or someone in their family will,” said Heather Bellino, CEO at Texas Advocacy Project, which offers free legal help and support to survivors of domestic violence.

Bellino says the pandemic has made it more difficult to deal with survivors reaching the help they need.

“A batterer is there because of power and control,” said Bellino.

Rosemary Estrada-Rade with the National Domestic Violence Hotline says when the pandemic first started in March 2020 they didn’t see an increase in people reaching out for help.

“I think that’s because survivors were in close proximity with their abusers,” Estrada-Rade said.

By June 2021, people started reaching out to the hotline again.

“We actually saw a 4% increase in our contact volume,” said Estrada-Rade. “That might have been when people were feeling more normal, when they were returning to the workplace.”

“There are so many studies that show after a tragic event, up to 18 months later, you are going to see an increase in domestic abuse,” said Bellino. “That is 100% true. I do think we will continue to see increases.”

Another troubling trend is the severity of the abuse, according to both advocates.

“In a pandemic situation where a lot of things are uncertain and there is a lot of isolation that can cause the abuse to be worse,” Estrada-Rade said.

If you or someone you know needs support, the 24/7 SAFEline is available by phone at (512) 267-SAFE (7233), by text at (737) 888-7233 or by online chat at safeaustin.org/chat

“Anecdotally, I can tell you at our office we are doing much more severe high risk safety planning with our clients,” Bellino said.

Both organizations say they are there to help survivors 24/7.

“If it is not safe to reach out to us by phone they can also chat or text with us,” said Estrada-Rade.

You can learn more about how to get help and the resources on the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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