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Domestic calls increase in Safe Passage region

Domestic calls in four of the six counties Safe Passage serves increased significantly during the first month of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The six dispatch centers in the Safe Passage region (Ripley, Ohio, Franklin, Jefferson, Dearborn and Switzerland counties) provided a report on the number of domestic calls in the past two months and overall calls received since Jan. 1 to April 30, and compared to same time period in 2019.

Safe Passage, which operates a shelter in Batesville and 24/7 helpline, did not show a significant increase in calls initially. As they have been warned by national and state agencies, the nonprofit domestic and sexual violence shelter expects to see an uptick soon after the stay at home shelter is lifted as more victims will have the opportunity to make the call for help. The shelter has remained fully operational throughout this health crisis.

Jane Yorn, Executive Director of Safe Passage, noted the traumatic effect the pandemic and the stay at home mandate can have on victims. “Isolation can be devastating for victims. They have no break, no respite, to get away from the abuse. We suspect also that many could not find a safe time to call or to leave.” Other DV and SA crisis centers across the state have also noticed this downward call trend, according to Yorn who has been in weekly contact with many of these directors. “This pandemic has been disportionataly hard on women who want to leave their circumstances, but are further impacted by job and income loss, child care and the pressure of e-learning at home. Trying to develop a safety or escape plan at this point is just too much to handle for many.”

As for the counties in the southeast Indiana district, Ohio County dispatch reported a 75 % increase in calls in March and April–12 calls in 2019 to 21 calls in 2020. Dearborn County, by far the most populated county Safe Passage serves, reported a 52% increase in calls from the same two months, with 238 calls. Nearby Switzerland County was up 70% in March 2020, accepting 17 calls. Ripley County’s dispatch center, which includes Batesville, reported a 72% uptick in March, with 38 calls. Franklin County was the only county that did not have more calls for either month; they remained between 50 and 60 calls for both months in 2019 and 2020. Jefferson County’s domestic crisis calls dropped slightly in March 2020 (59 vs. 61 in 2019) but up slightly in April from 59 to 63 in 2020.

Several of the southeast Indiana 911 coordinators noticed that all calls were down in April. “We’ve had less vehicles on the road, therefore less accidents. I also think people have been reluctant to go to the hospital due to the virus,” explained Amanda Smith, asst. director of 911 Communication for Ripley County. Leah Hildebrand, Ripley County 911 communications director, also noted that she believes people have been afraid to go out, that they might get “in trouble, or arrested” besides possibly contacting the virus. John Hundley, Franklin County’s 911 coordinator, initially thought the overall calls to the center would be significantly down. He commented that in his 17 years it’s been noticeably slow. Yet he learned the dispatch calls were actually up and upon further investigation attributed it to 300+building checks, which officers conduct when they have the time to monitor closed churches, business, schools and other properties for safety. There were many buildings and/or businesses closed during this period.

In China, where the coronavirus first spread, organizations that work to protect women from intimate-partner violence reported a jump in cases. According to The Washington Post, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, has asked Congress and state lawmakers to provide funding for domestic violence relief, including hotel nights for survivors who have to isolate or quarantine but can’t at home or in a shelter.

Local foundations have also stepped up to help those most in need. One Batesville, along with Ripley County Community Foundation, Dearborn Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Madison/Jefferson County, Covid-19 Emergency Response (United Way Greater Cincinnati and Greater Cincinnati Foundation), United Way Franklin County, and Civista Charitable Foundation also provided additional resources to Safe Passage to assist needy victims. The nonprofit, based in Batesville, is also grateful for the individual donors and businesses who have provided donations such as restaurant meals and disinfectant and masks for the shelter.

For more information on domestic or sexual violence, call the Safe Passage or Safe Place Helpline at 1 877-733-1990 or visit the website at www.safepassageinc.org