SWFL organizations deal with domestic violence uptick during pandemic

Writer: Joey Pellegrino

Domestic violence calls are on the rise during the pandemic, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says just the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the chance of homicide by 500%.

The number of domestic violence calls reported in any given year is around half of what it should be, because only half of all victims ever call the police. Since 2017, there have been around 300 deaths related to domestic violence in Florida, and a growing number of gun purchases has proved concerning to local organizations that help victims.

Linda Oberhaus, CEO of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples, says 60% of domestic violence victims told their batterer they were going to leave before their death. That’s why it is important to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can connect you to local resources and people like Oberhaus, who will help you develop a safe plan.

“In some cases it so much more dangerous when a victim is leaving than when a victim is actually in the home, which is why so many victims are fearful,” Oberhaus said. “And that fear is real, because when victims leave the abuse tends to escalate at that point in time.”

Oberhaus says local agencies can help victims get into a safe shelter or will move elsewhere.

Another local organization providing support to victims is Abuse Counseling and Treatment. They try to educate the public on domestic violence, like knowing the different signs to look out for: bruising, a reluctance to go home, fear of missing a phone call from a partner and more.

Christine Kobie, Violence Prevention and Training Coordinator for ACT, says they will help victims through any type of situation.

“Most survivors of domestic violence want to stop the abuse, but they don’t wanna break up their family, and so that’s just one of the things that our advocates can do is to help them figure out a safe way of doing so,” Kobie said.

Kobie says domestic violence tends to repeat itself over generations, which is why it is so important to get help.

If you or someone you know needs it, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233.

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