While COVID-19 cases surged across the nation, the call to stay inside awakened a monster and the number of domestic violence cases soared; a sad result as measures meant to protect society put the vulnerable in harm’s way.
For example, one aid group reported to CBN News their caseload rose dramatically.
“We received about 1,000 more calls into our hotline in 2020 over 2019,” said Deborah Apperson, community engagement manager at Help and Emergency Response (H.E.R.) Shelter. “There definitely is a rise in domestic violence. People are home from work. Abusers are often home from work now in the quarantine. Money is a little bit tighter, that often leads to domestic violence issues. So, all those things have added to sometimes already precarious situations that women are in.”
According to the American Journal of Medicine, red flags went up almost from the pandemic’s beginning. Then police departments nationwide reported the numbers on domestic violence cases. San Antonio saw an 18% spike. The number of cases in Portland, Oregon jumped 22% and New York City saw an increase of 10%.
Apperson said COVID-related restrictions have prevented victims from getting necessary help.
“They have been secluded from their family and their friends. Often their abuser will keep them from making those phone calls. They can’t visit so they can’t seek any help,” said Apperson.
Tika Washington of Spokane knows the situation all too well. She endured years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her now ex-husband.
“I can remember when I first left him, I came back several times because I was homeless with my kids outside, sleeping at bus stops,” Washington said in an interview with CBN News. “He choked me until I almost died. My son had to pull him by his hair off of me.”
The mother of two once had a gun placed in her mouth, experienced a broken ear drum and spent two months in the hospital while pregnant with her second child.
She said childhood abuse left her vulnerable and unable to break free.
“Leaving that situation and not having a father there and having that family feeling, you’re gonna go back to what you know,” said Washington.
Apperson calls it a common problem. “It’s the hardest step to leave but it is nothing that you will ever regret leaving and starting fresh especially if you have children in your family,” she explained.
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The problem has the White House taking action. President Biden’s newly passed COVID relief plan includes $49 million for groups fighting domestic abuse, plus vouchers for victims fleeing their abusers.
After desperate prayer, Washington began her journey to freedom three years ago.
“I literally remember sitting on the bed crying, I was like, ‘Jesus please help me,'” she said. “And I never ever done that until that point, and I was like ‘God please take me out of the situation.'”
A week later came an offer for housing through a Christian residential program.
After relocating, Washington became involved in a local church where she and her two children have found fellowship, hope and healing.
“That whole church loved on me and my children and helped us, and God every day carries me,” says Washington. “When I sit back now and look at my life, I still have a long way to go, but I can’t imagine where I was four years ago. Every time I need something, every need is met. I really just wish people would understand how much Jesus loves us.”
Washington now encourages others trapped in abusive relationships to get out while they can.
“That fear that you’re holding onto, Jesus is the only answer to give you that strength, peace, just take the jump to just leave,” she said.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.