With the potential threat of increased domestic violence during the coronavirus lockdown, Newton officials are watching closely and providing resources for people who might be suffering abuse at home.
Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, commander of the Community Services Bureau, said so far Newton has not seen significantly higher numbers in domestic violence cases despite numbers rising internationally. But local experts say they expect cases to increase as lockdown restrictions lessen, and Apotheker urged any victims to call the police or tell a friend.
“Our main concern is the victim and the children, if there are any,” he said.
Julie Lima, executive director of The Second Step, a Newton-based organization that supports survivors of domestic violence and their children, said there is evidence showing how times of financial and emotional stress can lead to issues of domestic violence, as well as child abuse and sexual assault.
“Unfortunately it’s not surprising to many of us in the domestic violence field,” Lima said.
A group of women founded The Second Step in 1992, in an attempt to help victims of domestic violence transition to a safer life. The organization provides housing for up to 17 families, as well as case management, peer groups and safety planning for survivors.
Lima said quarantine makes it even more difficult for survivors to connect with support networks and get help. While Newton doesn't have more reported cases, it doesn’t mean violence not happening behind closed doors.
“Survivors can’t always talk openly about what is going on with their advocate if their abuser or children are in the next room,” she said.
In response to the growing threat of domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreak, Lima said, advocates and attorneys at The Second Step are “providing enhanced safety planning and emotional support.”
“There are few or no opportunities for those experiencing DV to call for help,” Lima said. “As the stay-at-home restrictions are loosened, we anticipate an influx of calls from people who need our support and services.”
The Newton government also directs residents to Waltham-based REACH Beyond Domestic Violence.
Jessica Teperow, director of prevention programs at REACH, said the organization is trying to focus on “making sure that our hotline and information is in as many places and spaces that people may see.”
In addition to a 24-hour hotline, REACH offers resources for those who may know a victim of domestic abuse, including a video on how to help survivors during the pandemic.
“Some people are calling for themselves, and people are calling because they’re concerned for a loved one,” Teperow said. “But there are a lot of people right now who don’t feel like there’s any safe way to reach out.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the REACH Beyond Domestic Violence hotline at 800-899-4000. Newton also lists resources here.