One unfortunate side effect of social distancing and isolating at home during a pandemic has been an increase in domestic violence.
The public health crisis has put enormous stress on everyone, leading some to use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism. The frustration of being unable to work and getting behind on bills during a shutdown, spending every moment of every day for nearly three months with the same people in isolation has led to verbal abuse and threats of violence between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, same sex partners, adult relatives and parents and their children. The difficult circumstances paired to a quick-tempered, controlling partner are a recipe for conflict, according to domestic violence advocates.
According to victims’ advocate Christy Ellis of Domestic Violence Crisis Services (DVCS) in Fort Payne, the easing of state regulations to reopen many businesses has resulted in increased activity from abused women.
“The last couple of weeks have gotten much busier because [the governor] started to open a few things back up and some people have started going back to work. This has allowed victims of domestic violence to get away from their abusers,” said Ellis.
“Back before this coronavirus outbreak, we would get calls from two to three women a week. Over the last two weeks, we’ve averaged about five a week. We suspect that it’s going to get worse as more things open up and people return to work because these victims will get more freedom to be able to come see us. It’s going to get worse.”
DVCS offers services that include victim advocacy, case management, counseling, shelter and referrals to area resources. The isolation that is present in domestic violence increases when the victim lives in a rural community. Battered wives and girlfriends are often unaware that there are services available to them to help them live safely in their own homes.
“Women come in with swollen, bruised faces. It’s nice to play a part in helping them get from where they are to the next step in their lives, to help get them out of the position that they are in. And show them that they are worthy of something because these abusers knock them down and tell them they are unworthy and how vulnerable they are. It’s nice to be able to help them find a better life,” Ellis said.
“Domestic violence is something that can swell your heart with pride because you’ve helped a woman in crisis, but it can break your heart to see the black and blue,” said Outreach Coordinator Nancy Tcherneshoff.
Domestic Violence Crisis Services is a 501 (c) 3, private nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors made up of community volunteers. DVCS is funded by United Way of Marshall County, United Givers of DeKalb County, ADECA and community donations.
DVCS coordinates with law enforcement and the court system to hold domestic abusers accountable for violence against loved ones. A shelter for victims, Kelly’s Rainbow, is operated at an undisclosed location in Albertville, providing three meals per day, offering assistance in obtaining clothing, personal items, counseling and job searches. They also assist with the transition to independent living with tasks such as finding furniture for a new living space away from their abuser.
Cases of child abuse are referred to the Department of Human Resources, but helping displaced mothers provide for their children is part of what DVCS does.
The Progressive Women of North Alabama and DeKalb County Democratic Club recently donated boxes of items needed at the shelter such as: pajamas (ladies and children), new (ladies and children), socks (ladies and children), diapers and baby wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, washing liquid/powder, dish detergent, body wash, dental floss, deodorant, razors, hairbrushes, cleaning supplies/disposable gloves, Lysol spray, Kleenex, white towels and wash rags, white twin Sheets and pillows.
These are materials that women and children need as they start a new life away from their abusers.
Anyone in an emergency situation should call 9-1-1. Anyone suffering from domestic abuse can call DVCS’ crisis line at (256) 891-0019 for help.