KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
April 30, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
Local authorities have reported an alarming increase in domestic abuse cases. The rise of unemployment, stay-at-home orders and the stress of the current pandemic have been cited as contributing factors.
Authorities Report Local Domestic Abuse Crimes Increase
The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect Katy residents. Families have been readjusting their lives as jobs were lost or became remote, businesses closed, and children started homeschooling through virtual school
“People are not only stuck home, but many are experiencing reduced income or have lost jobs altogether, “says Major Chad Norvell with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
Major Norvell reports that the county has seen a 27% increase in domestic abuse related calls since the first closures and stay at home situation began on March 12.
“It’s a major challenge mainly because the stay at home order makes it problematic for victims of domestic violence to seek help when they are trapped in the environment they are trying to leave,” says Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers Houston.
Non-Profits Support Victims Through Crisis
Non-profit organizations that provide support for residents in crisis have also seen an increase in calls about abuse.
“The threats to victims have become more severe in these times of isolation, ironically in the place where they should be safe in ‘their homes,’" says Susan Hastings, Director of Crisis Center with Katy Christian Ministries (KCM). “This confinement is fostering tension, strain and anxiety created by loss of security, health and money worries.”
KCM reports that calls to their emergency hotlines have gone up by 26% as compared to last month.
Flattening the Virus May Increase Domestic Violence Curve
“Women are being isolated with their violent partners,” says Hastings. “Children are being exposed to physical and sexual violence.”
“This situation is particularly challenging because of the stay-at-home order to flatten the coronavirus curve,” said Emilee Whitehurst, president and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center. “We may unfortunately be increasing the domestic violence curve.”
Non-Profits Adjust to Help While Meeting CDC Guidelines
KCM and other non-profit groups have altered their services to adhere to the Center for Disease Control recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We have established our services virtually through telework and/or teleconferencing platforms, while we are working from home,” says Hastings. “Our goal is continued support to victims.”
Katy Christian Ministries offers two hotlines as calls continue to increase.
Domestic Abuse Hotline
Sexual Abuse Hotline
Both hotlines are open Monday-Thursday 9a.m.-5p.m. and are answered by trained advocates.
Katy Cares supports women and children experiencing situational homelessness due to violence and abuse. This local non-profit organization offers tele-chats to support those in need.
Katy Cares Tele-Talks
Monday-Friday 12-2p.m., 7-9p.m.
Online Ways to Get Help
Kahan pointed out that domestic violence victims may have difficulty trying to call for help and get protective orders while being trapped in their residence. If women are unable to reach out by phone, and if they are currently at home with their abuser, there are online ways to get help.
“You know your situation better than anyone else,” says Hastings. “Safety planning can minimize your risk. However, if you are in dancer you should call 911.”
“We have had victims reach out to us through our private messaging option on our Facebook Page,” adds Hastings. “We also have an escape button attached to our website so that is a victim is looking at our website and the abuser walks in they can click in the area that is established and the browser will immediately take them to a different site.”
The National Domestic Hotline Center offers hotlines to call but also online chats that can provide victims with the same services.
“I expect to see a major rise in the amount of domestic violence victims reaching out to organizations once we have some semblance of normalcy,” says Kahan.
Addressing Mental Health
In addition to advocacy, KCM also has licensed therapists on staff to provide counseling services through tele-health mobile access.
“The mental health of our clients is a critical factor to consider and we know the effects linger for those who have been subjected to domestic and sexual violence,” says Hastings.
"We Can Help"
“We want to remind our community members that if you or someone you know is going through a situation of domestic violence or sexual abuse, you are not alone, you are not to blame, you do not deserve to be abused, you have rights,” says Hastings. “We can help.
“I’ve been gone now going on three weeks,” says an anonymous KCM Crisis Center survivor. “I hold my head up now and everyone hears me when I speak.”
Anyone Can Be a Victim
“We know domestic violence is widespread and affects over 10 million Americans each year and anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of age, sex, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or religion,” says Hastings.
“Domestic Violence knows no boundary,” says Deysi Crespo, Executive Director for Katy Christian Ministries. “It is sad that a human being has to endure so much pain but it is also refreshing to know that they are loved and supported by so many who have joined in the movement by educating our communities, sharing the resources and providing the interventions necessary for the healing and recovery of the victims.”
“To all you sisters who are afraid to live, know that throughout the storm and rain there is joy after the pain,” says a KCM Crisis Center survivor. “You will be able to breathe again.”
For more information about KCM, and how you can help, visit their website.