Number of domestic violence hotline calls on the rise since self-isolation period started

Posted at 10:51 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 14:27:42-04

CINCINNATI — Local advocates said they are seeing an increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines since people began self-isolating due to coronavirus.

With Ohio under a Stay At Home order Monday night, they worry things will only get worse.

"We're really concerned about survivors right now," president and CEO of Women Helping Women Kristin Shrimplin said.

Cincinnati-based Women Helping Women works to combat gender-based violence.

"We looked at a snapshot of what we were seeing with hotline calls just even last week compared to this week," Shrimplin said. "We're already starting to see about a 30% increase there."

Those numbers match what her organization is hearing from local police agencies as well.

"Norwood, North College Hill, Delhi, and in communication with those chiefs, we're hearing from them absolutely there's an increase," Shrimplin said.

Without things like work or school, getting help to an abuse victim can be tricky, according to Danielle Firsich, Greater Cincinnati YWCA's manager of non-residential domestic violence services.

"I fully expect rates to skyrocket during this," Firsich said. "Typically, during times of extreme isolation or economic upheaval is when you see a huge increase in gender violence."

Women Helping Women and the YWCA can both be reached via their hotlines, staffed with experts armed with strategies and immediate access to resources.

"If you call our family justice center, we have an advocate who will immediately respond to you," Firsich said. "The first thing you do is do that immediate short-term safety planning: 'Are you safe right now?'"

People who work with domestic violence survivors year-round say isolation is key to carrying out prolonged abuse. That means the Stay At Home order meant to control COVID-19 could leave some feeling trapped.

"If they're at home with their abuser, which room can they go to and which time of day and how can they mitigate some safety in that moment?" Shrimplin said. "Can they set up a code word with friends?"

The 24-hour Women Helping Women crisis hotline phone number is 513-381-5610. For resources for men, women and children, you can call the YWCA hotline at 513-872-9529.

"We understand," Shrimplin said. "We listen. We validate and we're going to give you immediate help."