Domestic violence spikes in R.I. and Mass. amid pandemic

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported a 40% spike in helpline/hotline calls in April, compared to April 2019.

A total of 559 helpline/hotline callers requested emergency shelter – representing almost a nine-fold increase compared to April 2019.

Last month, RICADV warned there would be a increase in cases caused by the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders.

“The instances are happening more because victims are now exposed more to the abuser,”said Tonya Harris, the Executive Director of RICADV. “There is now a chance they are living with the abuser and the abuser can have 24/7 access to them.”

Harris said abusers could use the pandemic against a victim as another form of intimidation.

“By saying to the victim, ‘Don’t go outside, you’re going to get COVID-19, you’re going to get sick, you’re going to end up in the hospital,'” explained Harris.

A spike in cases is also happening in Massachusetts.

“We have seen a 20-25% spike in domestic violence cases,” said Jennifer Blum, the Executive Director and Founder of The Help SAVE Foundation. Her victim’s advocacy group is based in Massachusetts and assists with abuse cases worldwide.

“Last week we were able to get a woman out of Massachusetts into another state to a safe house,” said Blum.

Blum is also a survivor of domestic abuse. She said other survivors may be living in fear right now if their abusers are petitioning for an early release from prison because of the coronavirus.

“I personally went down this road just a few weeks ago with my abuser petitioning for release. He was denied, thank god,” said Blum.

She said if you’re worried your abuser might be released, the best thing to do is be proactive and call the court.

“Make sure you’re answering your phone, because whether you realize it or not, the advocates in the court systems are trying to contact you,” said Blum. “They’re trying to get as much information from you, a survivor, as possible so that when they go before these judges they can give all the proper information to keep these abusers held in prison.”

If you or someone you know needs help with domestic abuse, you can call the Rhode Island Helpline at (800) 494-8100. In Massachusetts, you can call (877) 785-2020.

You can also text “HOME” to 714-714, or text your location to 9-1-1 and a first responder will come to you.

“We understand a lot of men and women can not make phone calls because they’re stuck in their homes with their abusers,” said Blum.

The courts are also open for you to seek a restraining order, if needed.

Categories: Coronavirus, Massachusetts, News, Rhode Island