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Domestic violence calls rise
Domestic violence.jpg

As residents are confined in their homes due to the stay-at-home order issued in hopes of easing the spread of COVID-19, domestic abuse is rifling through the county and state.

Executive director of Families in Crisis Kristy Stubblefield says the number of domestic abuse calls throughout Tennessee has increased by 12%, and Families in Crisis has seen a 60% rise in calls compared to this time last year.

There have been 522 calls from March through April of 2020 compared to the previous year’s approximate 300 calls.

“There are more people stuck at home together and stresses are higher as people are struggling financially,” says Stubblefield. “Children are at home more, which can cause an even more stressful environment. Prior to the stay-at-home order, people could leave their residence to cool down. Constantly being stuck at home means victims are forced to be with their perpetrators all the time.”

The physical threats are continuing to escalate, as well as emotional and verbal abuse, due to being confined in the home instead of the victim or abuser having the ability to leave for work. During this time, McMinnville Police Department hasn’t seen an increase in domestic violence reports.

However, Stubblefield reminds the public most victims of domestic violence aren’t going to call the police.

 Many victims want to leave the situation without pressing charges or becoming involved in the court process, including testifying against their perpetuators on the witness stand.

“Most of the time, victims won’t call the authorities. They just want out,” says Stubblefield. “They’ll call our crisis line to request shelter or to ask for help getting out of the situation they’re in. We can’t go to their home and pick them up, but we can offer a safe place to stay.”

The fact courts are in limbo is also taking a toll on victims of domestic violence. Court and no-contact orders are being extended until courts reopen.

“There’s definitely a fear since the survivors can’t proceed with their lives until they’re able to go back to court,” says Stubblefield. “They’ll be called in as witnesses and have to take the stand to testify. They can’t move forward until that procedure is over.”

The Families in Crisis shelter was full before COVID-19, as well as most programs in surrounding counties, but the shelter has still been able to safely place victims.

“Although we do have our rapid rehousing program, a lot of callers aren’t requesting shelter,” says Stubblefield. “Many are looking for counseling, help with orders of protection or assistance with safety planning.”

There are currently 14 people of all ages residing at the Families in Crisis shelter.

“An increase in domestic violence against children has occurred as their mothers are being abused,” says Stubblefield. “The children are seeing that abuse, and feel they must walk on egg shells. Everyone in the home is experiencing the abuse right now.”

Stubblefield states precautions are taking place to keep the shelter safe, such as wearing masks and gloves, and everyone, including the staff, working together to protect one another.

“Since many families are living in one residence, masks and gloves have been given out, people aren’t leaving unless they’re essential employees, and we’ve increased cleaning and sanitizing the home,” says Stubblefield. “We haven’t had any problems regarding the coronavirus yet.” According to NBC News, Sharon Roberson, president of YWCA Nashville and Middle Tennessee says, “We’ve had to substantially adjust the way we go about doing our business.” Robertson notes that calls to their crisis line increased by 55% in recent weeks. “We’re scrambling around to figure out how to keep people safe, with the idea we could be dealing with people who have a very contagious illness. Hospitals are very important, but we’re a version of that — we have people dealing with significant trauma and they need to have a safe space to go.”

“Don’t be scared to take that first step because there’s help available,” adds Stubblefield. “No matter what, we’ll try to walk you through the process from the time you reach out to us until when you can stand on your own two feet.”

Families in Crisis can be reached at 473-6221.