Since the pandemic began, millions of people either lost their jobs or work from home. Unfortunately for victims of domestic violence, this is the perfect storm.
During a press conference on Aug. 26, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said calls to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition had increased 25%, while domestic violence calls to emergency dispatchers were up 30%.
Several resources exist for domestic violence, but not all survivors realize they need outside support.
“Abuse is not an elephant that falls on our heads, but an elephant that grows on top of us; meaning abuse is a behavior that escalates with time, it’s important to not close our eyes to it,” said Claudia Cioni, a clinical mental health counselor at Salt Lake Community College’s Center for Health and Counseling. “Most victims believe if they change themselves, the violence will stop, but domestic violence is a couple dynamic and cannot be changed by changing one side only. Both sides need help.”
Cioni noted that domestic violence has different levels of abuse.
“There are different levels of danger, and many victims avoid looking for the proper resources and focus on trying to ‘change themselves.’ The most important thing is to believe someone when they say that they are being abused and encourage them to seek help,” Cioni said. “Therapists can help clients connect with the proper resources, help create safety plans, or identify patterns.”
Red flags and warning signs of an abusive partner include extreme jealousy, verbal abuse, cruelty to animals or children and unpredictability.
The social isolation that comes with a pandemic only makes things worse for some domestic violence survivors.
“We know that isolation is a very common tactic that an abusive person will use anyway, so the nature of our situation right now just plays right into that and can make it even more difficult for a survivor to reach out or explore their options for help,” said Jennifer Oxborrow, the executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition in an interview with KUER shortly after the pandemic began.
Oxborrow also encouraged others to reach out for advice.
“Watch for isolation that goes above and beyond what we’re all experiencing right now,” Oxborrow said. “If you’re trying to reach out to someone and they’re not able to respond to you at all, if something feels off … if you’re not sure, you can call us at 1-800-897-5465, if you’re concerned about someone and you’re not sure how to safely start a conversation. We can help you figure out how to start that conversation.”
During her August press conference, Wilson also announced that Salt Lake County would give $220,000 of CARES Act funding to the YWCA and South Valley Services to support survivors of domestic violence. Plans for that money included helping victims find housing and covering rent or utilities so victims can stay away from their aggressors.
If you or someone you know needs help:
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition — 1-800-897-5465
- Salt Lake Family Justice Center — 801-537-8600 or toll-free 1-855-992-2752
- South Valley Services — 801-255-1095
- Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) — 1-888-421-1100
- United Way 2-1-1 connects people to government and human services agencies — 2-1-1
- Salt Lake City Police Department’s crisis line — 801-580-7969
- Rape Recovery Center — 801-467-7273
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-TALK (8255)