By Frances Weller | May 5, 2020 at 4:13 PM EDT – Updated May 5 at 11:37 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and the stay at home orders that soon followed, there were concerns people in abusive relationships would find themselves trapped and victims of escalated violence.
This May, the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services in Wilmington is reporting a significant uptick in calls from people who are being abused during the pandemic.
“Since we transitioned into more remote work in mid-March, we’ve seen a 114 percent in calls and a 48 percent increase in services overall so there’s definitely a large part of our community that’s being impacted by this,” says Mandy Houvouras, Outreach Director for the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services in Wilmington.
Houvouras says they are getting calls everyday, every hour.
“Those numbers are staggering,” she says. “When I ran reports and looked into that increase, it’s alarming but unfortunately its not surprising for advocates. We know that situations like this pandemic impact the most vulnerable populations the most and when you’re trapped at home with someone who is controlling and who is abusive and then you’re dealing with additional isolation, that is a recipe for violence to escalate.”
Houvouras admits some victims of domestic violence are afraid of seeking shelter outside of their homes for fear of contracting COVID-19.
“And that is an understandable fear,” she says. “I think its an additional barrier among all of the other challenges that someone faces in leaving an abusive relationship. It’s that fear of uncertainty about the health ramifications of that right now.”
Houvouras says there are safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
This is a frightening time for many people, but Houvouras says anyone who is being abused whether its during a pandemic or not should know there is a way to leave that abuse. She believes it’s listening to your inner voice.
“I say to listen to yourself–listen to that instinct that’s trying to talk to to you–that’s trying to protect you and to know that there are people out there who care and that there is hope,” Houvouras says. “Abusers capitalize on making you feel hopeless, as though there is nowhere to turn. We are here. We’re trying to take additional precautions to make sure that we’re addressing health concerns, safety concerns and are able to meet those needs. And so despite the fact we are in this uncertain time and things are escalating, there is a way out.”
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