Coronavirus raises concerns about domestic violence, experts say

Originally posted in the Daily Memphian – Read the article by clicking here.

An unintended consequence of families being confined together during the coronavirus pandemic could be an increase in domestic violence, but local agencies say they are still working to help.

The Memphis Police Department posted information earlier this week on Facebook and Twitter about the impact of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We must remember, there is no excuse for domestic violence. During this time, victims should not feel alone. There are resources available,” the post read.

Lt. Karen Rudolph, an MPD spokeswoman, said the department has not seen an increase in domestic violence incidents since the first reported coronavirus case in Shelby County March 8.

Last year, MPD responded to 926 domestic violence calls through March 24. This year, during the same time period, MPD had responded to 921 calls.

Tennessee ranked fourth in the nation for domestic violence-related homicides, according to the latest survey from the Violence Policy Center. In 2019, 15,429 domestic violence cases were reported in Memphis, a 5% decrease from 2018 reported cases, according to data released by the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute.

Conchita Topinka, communications director for the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County, said the staff there is working from home and all in-person visits have stopped because of the virus, but they are available by phone.

Family Safety Center is a nonprofit that works with domestic violence victims to escape abusive relationships by helping with emergency housing, counseling and a safety plan.

“We are still providing safety planning and we are pre-screening calls for orders of protection,” Topinka said. “If someone needs an order of protection, we’re handling those case by case. We haven’t received an overwhelming increase in calls, but we are keeping an eye on that to see if we need to change anything.”

Deborah Clubb, head of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, said fear of COVID-19 coupled with stress and hours confined together “will ratchet up the anger and violence too many of our neighbors face at home.”

Clubb said intimate partner violence also can involve sexual assault.

“Everyone is working to provide the help these families need whether it’s in Germantown or Frayser,” Clubb said.

Sandy Bromley, director of the Shelby County Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center, said the center is still open and providing services by phone.

She said law enforcement is still bringing sexual assault victims to the center for forensic exams, and there are screening measures in place to make sure everyone is safe.

Help for domestic violence victims and families:

  • CasaLuz: For Spanish-speaking families. Call 901-500-8214.
  • Family Safety Center: Crisis line at 901-249-7611 or 901-222-4400
  • Kindred Place: Call 901-276-2200
  • Memphis Child Advocacy Center: 901-525-2377
  • Shelby County Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center: 901-222-3950 or 901-222-4350 for 24-hour hotline
  • YWCA DV Crisis Hotline and shelter: 901-725-4277
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Help is available. Click here for a full list of resources.

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