Since the beginning of the Covid-19 Corona Virus pandemic and all of the ongoing precautions that have taken place since regarding social distancing, school/business closures and recommended stay at home precautions, there have been a number of news segments and media articles nationally about Domestic Violence. Several Law Enforcement agencies in various Cities/Towns across the US have reported seeing an increase in the amount of Domestic Violence related calls for service being reported and responded to, with Rochester, NH being one of them.
During this Covid period Police have seen an increase in the overall amount of calls for service related to Domestic Violence. For the month of April, Rochester Police saw a 157% increase in the amount of Domestic Violence related arrests compared to April 2019. In April 2020 Rochester Police made 18 Domestic Violence related arrests compared to 7 in April 2019. This increase is also similar compared to DV arrests in April 2018 and April 2017 as well.
One possible reason for this increase could be attributed to the abuser having more access to the victim due to both parties now staying home more regularly during the pandemic. This, combined with the stresses of kids being home, financial concerns and societal changes could be contributing to a more rapid escalation in violence. There may also be less opportunities for the victim to seek help, which could mitigate their risk through various supports. Without access to those supports it stands to reason that there is more physical and verbal abuse and other threatening conduct by the perpetrator.
In response to this concerning National trend and with more and more people staying inside and isolating to prevent the spread/contraction of the Covid-19 virus, Rochester Police want to offer some advice to those that do not feel safe in their homes. As the world continues to fight this ongoing pandemic, some areas have seen a rise in cases of Domestic Violence. Domestic abuse is about power and control, with isolation being one of the more common tactics that perpetrators use to maintain this control. During times of mandated isolation, like when a government issues a stay at home order, survivors of abuse may feel even more alone and the danger they face also increases. This can create an environment in which people may feel that help is not available or accessible. The Rochester Police Department wants to assure you that we will respond when called and that confidential support is available 24 hours a day by calling HAVEN at 603-994-SAFE (7233). Additionally, comprehensive wrap around services are available for survivors during normal business hours at the Strafford County Family Justice Center located at the Rochester Community Center (entrance to the right of the main building entrance) or by calling 603-509-1916.
In an effort to help those not feeling safe in their homes, staff at Life Balance Counseling, Coaching and Wellness offer some of the following tips/suggestions to use when there are safety concerns in the home:
- Does the survivor have another place to stay or somewhere to go if things become unsafe in their home? Remember, there are no Emergency orders in place that state you cannot leave your home if there are safety concerns and Police will not arrest you for simply leaving your home to get to somewhere safe.
- You can call 9-1-1 if things become unsafe
- Keep cell phone on you and charged at all times
- Courts are still open and Protection Orders can still be sought. Carefully assess if this is a safe option.
- Have Code words for emails/texts. Be very cautious of email/text option.
- Create Code Words to use with children, family and friends to alert them of an unsafe situation
- How does the survivor typically keep themselves safe from verbal abuse? Is there a phrase they can say to themselves? Ex. “I am strong,” “I will get through this”
- Keep physical distance if possible. Is there a yard to work in? For the kids to play?
- Sleep in separate rooms
- Reach out to spiritual support systems. Ex: Friend from church, faith Leader
- Understand there is no perfect plan of safety, especially right now, but by maintaining a routine and having plans in place may increase an individual’s personal safety.
- Check that your local shelter is open
- Give the survivor the 24-hour domestic violence hotline
- Remember, supports are there and utilize them whenever possible. In this time of isolation and social distancing, teletherapy is available. Safety plan for issues surrounding therapyphone/video calls if possible. Does the survivor have access to Zoom, Skype, etc, but be aware of risks of using this technology. Is it possible the perpetrator is in the room listening and can see or hear you? Your safety comes first.