Calls to domestic violence hotlines during the COVID-19 pandemic

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The national domestic violence helpline reported that calls rose 6% in March and 15% in April.

BANGOR, Maine – We have been in the coronavirus pandemic for over seven months in Maine, and with that has come another epidemic within families – domestic violence. That’s why advocates are calling on communities to come together in October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) to help those in need get support.

Statistics indicate that there has been an increase in domestic violence cases during the pandemic, as most people spend more time at home. The workplace, school and even shopping may no longer be reliable escape routes, which is why experts say calls to domestic violence hotlines have skyrocketed.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that calls in March 2020 were up 6% from last year. In April 2020, the call volume had increased by 15%. New estimates from the United Nations Population Fund suggest a 20% global increase in intimate partner violence, or 15 million more.

Alcohol also plays a role in domestic violence situations. Chris McLaughlin, a licensed clinical social worker at Northern Light Acadia Hospital, says in some cases online alcohol sales have increased 243% in the past five months.

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“These kinds of situations are really just a powder keg of violence,” McLaughlin told NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom. “We are finding that the typical reprieve for some of these survivors of being able to go to work, go to school, get out of the house and go shopping – those things are gone.”

McLaughlin says there are steps people can take to get help or to help someone else from a distance. He says using non-verbal methods like a video platform chat room or visual codes can work. Survivors can make agreements with practitioners or friends and family. For example, placing their coffee cup on a specific side of the screen during a video call could mean there are issues at home.

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McLaughlin says being exposed to violence in the family is one of 10 adverse childhood experiences that can impact young people into adulthood. That’s why he says teachers should be vigilant, looking for signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect. They should also be there when a child is ready to ask for help by having a resource or referral handy. To be proactive, they can also drop resources into a chat room during distance learning.

Signs to look for in children at risk of experiencing domestic violence situations include symptoms of increased anxiety or depression, aggression, negative self-talk, or alignment with the abuser by “parroting” harsh comments about the situation. victim. In adults, signs include problems in controlling the family with things like finances or visitors, as well as low self-esteem and poor speech from the victim.

McLaughlin reminds people that it’s not always easy for survivors to leave, something to keep in mind during these difficult conversations.

“For some people, leaving just isn’t an option,” McLaughlin said. “As much as we who care about these people want to see them safe, happy and protected, sometimes leaving is not an option in a pandemic situation, especially when finances and resources, like food, clothing and equipment. housing, can be really limited. “

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McLaughlin says the survivors should try to make a plan, in case they need to leave. There are many local and national resources, including:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-866-834-4357
  • National Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-9474
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673



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