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Domestic violence, child abuse cases likely increase during shutdown

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- With families spending more time at home during the nation-wide extended shutdown, it is likely there will be an increase in domestic violence and child abuse.

Home is where all people should be to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, but while people are focusing on the importance of physical health by staying home, domestic violence is following that same curve and experts say it is going to get worse before it gets better.

“The cure for the coronavirus pandemic is going to be the thing that actually increases the risk for victims of domestic violence,” Larry Bennett said, Professor at Indiana University School of Social Work, South Bend.

That is due to the fact that a lot of the factors that are associated with increased risk and decreased protection in domestic violence cases are the same factors that come as a result of the pandemic, according to Bennett.

“It’s not that the virus itself has any direct effect on domestic violence, but the things that we’re doing to sort of protect ourselves from it are going to increase it,” Bennett said.

Unemployment, alcohol use, regular problems within a relationship and particularly the loss of freedom to come and go are factors that increase the risk of domestic violence, according to Bennett.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Bennett said.

Bennett estimated that there could be a 20-40% increase in cases of domestic violence in the U.S.

Domestic violence essentially follows the same pattern of the COVID-19 curve, according to Bennett.

“I think this is going to linger a little bit after the curve has flattened out,” Bennett said.

Bennett said domestic violence goes hand in hand with child abuse.

“If a child was already in a neglectful or abusive relationship, unfortunately things will most likely get worse,” John Gallagher, Addiction Therapist at Oaklawn and Bashor Children’s Home.

“If they have no escape and they have to sit there and watch domestic violence in the house, that’s going to be an issue,” Bennett said.

Bennett recommended engaging in activities that will increase one’s own mental health—so social distancing does not have to mean self-isolation.

Maintaining contact with others using platforms like Facetime or Zoom is crucial, according to Bennett.

“And making that known in the household that you’re doing that,” Bennett said. “I think that’s very critical…don’t do that in isolation, do that very openly.”

Engaging in tasks that boost positivity are recommended, if a person feels safe and able to do so, spending time outdoors, taking a walk and getting fresh air is beneficial.

“And it really helps, because you know it’s kind of grim times and dark times in a sense and so getting outside and seeing the light and feeling your body moving through nature,” Bennett said. “I think is a wonderful thing.”

Both Gallagher and Bennett encourage those who are experiencing domestic violence or child abuse to reach out to resources in the Michiana community.

Recommended resources are listed below:

Click here for YWCA.

Click here for Center for Positive Change. And for more resources, click here.

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