Chatham domestic violence advocates concerned about potential increase of cases

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/3/20

Renita Foxx says she hasn’t yet seen an uptick in calls to the county’s domestic violence and abuse hotline since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

But even that concerns to her.

“I really …

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Chatham domestic violence advocates concerned about potential increase of cases

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Posted

Renita Foxx says she hasn’t yet seen an uptick in calls to the county’s domestic violence and abuse hotline since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

But even that concerns to her.

“I really am fearful for our survivors and our victims in the community,” said Foxx, the director of Chatham County Court Programs, which includes the county’s Family Violence Services division. “Even with our reports, I’m not seeing a lot of those come in. I know that it’s happening, but they’re having a hard time reaching out.”

Multiple media outlets have written about a potential rise in domestic violence situations during COVID-19, when many people are asked or required to stay home to avoid spreading the virus. Advocates say that will often leave those suffering abuse in their abusive situations all day with less chance for a way out.

“Any reprieve with an abuser at work, and possibly children at school, is most likely not available,” said Tamsey Hill, program director of Second Bloom of Chatham. “Also, tensions can intensify with the uncertainty, loss of power and control, and anxiety of living through a pandemic and the repercussions a pandemic can have financially and socially on a family. As tensions increase, so does the possibility of abuse.”

Firm numbers are not available yet, but examples are available across the United States and the world. The Montgomery County, Texas-based KHOU reported Monday that the county District Attorney’s Office saw a 35 percent increase in domestic violence cases filed in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Sixth Tone, an English-language Chinese publication, reported March 2 that one police station in Jianli County saw a tripling of domestic violence reports in February 2020 compared to the same month last year, and the January 2020 numbers were twice that of January 2019.

While many government services and nonprofits have had to limit their operations and exposure to the world due to social distancing guidelines, both the Family Violence Services division at the Chatham County courthouse and Second Bloom of Chatham are continuing to operate. Their joint hotline, available at (919) 545-STOP (7867), is still in operation. Domestic Violence Protective Orders can still be sought, and advocates are available to take calls and provide guidance.

Hill said Second Bloom is following guidelines set down by the state government as well as the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence while seeking to help survivors.

“Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the world, in times of emergency and pandemics, domestic violence does not stop and often increases,” Hill said. “Even though we may be required to limit face-to-face services or be creative in providing services, we need to be available and supportive as clients need to know they are not alone, and there is help and hope.”

Foxx said she and her staff are doing that as well, but she said some resources like shelters are stretched. In the meantime, she said, survivors can call either the county helpline if able or call Cardinal Innovations’ mental health helpline to help individuals with heightened anxiety.

“It’s really been some battles in trying to figure out what resources are available,” she said. “We are still here operating inside of the Justice Center with providing protection orders, and we’ll do our best to provide resources.”

And despite the low number of calls, both inside Chatham and out, domestic violence advocates in the county continue to be ready.

“No one’s really seeing an increase, which is why everyone’s on high alert,” Foxx said. “We know that it’s out there. Usually when the abuser goes to work, they can make that phone call. But if they’re home with you 24-7, they don’t have the chance.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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