Domestic violence spikes amid COVID-19 outbreak

Posted 3/31/20

With the stress of COVID-19 sweeping the nation, domestic violence has spiked, including right here in Walker County.

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Domestic violence spikes amid COVID-19 outbreak


With the stress of COVID-19 sweeping the nation, domestic violence has spiked, including right here in Walker County.

Daybreak Executive Director Lila Sears spoke with the Daily Mountain Eagle on Tuesday about why there is an increase of domestic violence during this time and shared resources that victims can utilize. Daybreak operates a shelter for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence and also offers general guidance for domestic violence victims.

Sears explained the psychology of why domestic violence has increased in the past few weeks due to COVID-19 and the social distancing that has been recommended as a result.

“When people are in significant times of stress, in general, most people seek some form of control over some part of their situation, and that’s normal,” Sears said.

She said some people may start deep cleaning their homes, for example, as a distraction from a stressful situation.

“As long as you’re doing that in a healthy way, it’s very normal, but for domestic violence perpetrators, their entire reason that they abuse is about power and control,” Sears said. “So when they feel like things are getting out of control, that is when they exert their forms of control in a way that they know to exert them, which means exerting more control over their partners and using their power over their partner to essentially make them feel better about the situation.”

Sears reiterated that having a lack of control in an unprecidented situation is resulting in further abuse from perpetrators. She said COVID-19 social distancing is also isolating victims even more than before.

“Isolation right now is bad anyway, but domestic violence victims tend to be very isolated to begin with,” she said. “If you’re already cut off from your family by your abuser, and say you were able to get out and socialize with your neighbor, for example, now you’re cut off from that person because of the ongoing virus situation. You’re even more isolated.”

Domestic violence takes many forms, from physical and emotional abuse to manipulation.

The Walker County Sheriff’s Office recently stated that the department is expecting to see an increase of domestic violence cases in the county, and some cases have made headlines over the past month.

Sears said it’s important to note that domestic situations in the county are not always violent encounters; rather, heightened situations of anger are also common.

“What we may see rather than our typical victim of domestic violence, we may see those bad relationship issues, where it’s not your typical power and control domestic violence pattern,” Sears said. “I think those are the things police may be seeing an increase of. Certainly, we can help people work through that too.” 

In addition to providing a shelter for women, Daybreak is continuing to provide assistance with securing Protection From Abuse Orders, which are still being issued through the court system. 

Daybreak and Walker County DHR are still providing assistance through the SAIL (Special Assessment and Intervention Liaison) program as well.  

“It can provide things like safety planning as well as payment of rent and utility deposits, things like that, for victims of domestic violence who have minor children,” Sears said.

Daybreak’s crisis line, 205-387-1157, remains open 24/7 for domestic violence victims to take advantage of safety planning, referrals or to request shelter placement.

Sears said there hasn’t necessarily been an increase in crisis line calls recently, but she expects that to change as the country’s economic situation worsens.  

“We’re happy to talk with anybody that is concerned about what is happening in their relationship,” Sears said. “It’s unfortunate, but this (domestic violence) is something that’s going to keep going right now, in spite of what the world feels like at the moment. We have to stay open, and we’re still working and still looking to help anybody who needs it.”    

The Walker County Sheriff’s Office can also be reached at 205-302-6464 to respond to domestic violence incidents.