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Domestic violence uptick tied to pandemic shutdown

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and organizations that help survivors of domestic violence on the Central Coast report an uptick in calls, believed to be directly related to the pandemic.

When statewide shelter-in-place went into effect, Central Coast domestic violence resource groups say calls for service initially dropped off.

“We felt like that was due to the fact that people were scared,” said Jan Campbell, executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions in Santa Barbara County.

Campbell believes people may have felt trapped and hopeless being stuck at home.

“Then when things opened up, we got a lot more calls for shelter," Campbell said. "In fact, we were putting people in hotels.”

Executive director of RISE in San Luis Obispo, Jane Pomeroy, has seen a spike in need. 

“Requests for shelter were up about 40 percent, compared to this same time last summer," Pomeroy said. "Crisis calls increased about 50 percent and hours of crisis support provided nearly doubled, so the need is huge right now.”

Pomeroy warns intimate partner violence is a silent epidemic, affecting women and men across all socioeconomic spectrums. 

“Domestic violence is more pervasive than many people know it to be," Pomeroy said. "It affects one in four women, and one in 33 men in our country.”

Even though there are several resources available, Campbell believes some women and men may be too scared or too embarrassed to come forward. She warns of the dangers it can have not only on the victims, but on the family structure if it continues.

“The effect that family violence has on children is really horrific," Campbell said. "The adverse childhood experiences rating for people who live through domestic violence is really high.”

Domestic violence resource organizations can help with counseling, restraining orders, child custody and legal issues, and help finding a place for the survivor to live if needed. 

“If we sort of continue to ignore this, it just gets further swept under the rug," Campbell said. "Don’t be afraid to say something, let's raise our voices together.”

In Santa Barbara County, contact Domestic Violence Solutions' 24-hour hotline at (805) 964?5245. For San Luis Obispo County, contact Stand Strong's 24-hour hotline at (805) 781-6400 or call RISE toll free at (855) 886-RISE.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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