Domestic violence uptick a concern in SWFL during coronavirus pandemic

Reporter: Sara Girard Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

As more people are quarantined at home, experts expect domestic violence cases to go up. One county in our region already reports a spike in domestic violence calls in the last two weeks.

We looked at how Southwest Florida is responding to a possible uptick in domestic violence amid the coronavirus pandemic, as it affects the region directly.

“Home is not a safe place for everybody” is the message Linda Oberhaus, the CEO of the Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples, wants everyone to keep in mind during these days of stress due to COVID-19.

“If victims are self-quarantined, or have to shelter in place, and they’re in a abusive relationship, then, that abuser has additional access to them,” Oberhaus said.

And that increase in violence is on the governor’s mind.

“I’m worried about suicide; I’m worried about domestic violence; and I’m worried about child abuse,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

In a meeting with the Board of County Commissioners of Collier County on Tuesday, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said that worry is reality.

“Domestic violence calls are up by 30% in the last week,” Rambosk said.

Whether or not the increase can be directly attributed to COVID-19, Oberhaus said isolation still plays a big role in abuse.

“For some women, work is really the only reprieve they get from an abusive home setting,” Oberhaus said. Similarly, for children, school is the reprieve that they get when they’re living in a home where there’s violence.”

So the shelter and the sheriff’s office are partnering to make sure victims are safe.

“I would encourage anyone in an abusive relationship at this point to consider calling our 24-hour crisis hotline, and speaking with an advocate, doing safety planning,” Oberhaus said.

No matter where you live in Southwest Florida, help is available 24 hours a day.

Call 1-800-500-1119, and you’ll be connected to the closest domestic violence center near you.

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