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New York is seeing a “frightening” increase in domestic violence calls during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“People who need help should reach out,” Cuomo said at his daily press conference Friday. “There is no shame in reaching out and saying, ‘I need help.’”
Calls to New York’s domestic violence hotline rose by 30% in April, compared to the same month last year. In March, when social distancing and isolation measures first started to ramp up in the state, reports to the hotline increased by 18%. That same month, state police also reported that they’d received 15% more domestic-violence incident calls than they had the previous March.
“That is a frightening rate and level of increase,” Cuomo said Friday during his daily press conference. The governor urged people to call the state’s domestic violence hotline, which can now be reached over text or online. All services are confidential.
The surge in domestic violence is no surprise to experts and advocates in the field, who've been warning for weeks that the frequency and severity of abuse will increase due to the pandemic. In interactions with the National Domestic Violence Hotline — which acts as a kind of barometer of domestic violence in the United States — people have said their abusers are cutting them off from tools they can use to ward off COVID-19, like hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, and showers, according to Crystal Justice, the Hotline’s chief development and marketing officer.
Abusers have also lied to their victims and told them that coronavirus restrictions prohibit them from leaving their house or going to a grocery store, Justice said. They’ve even accused healthcare providers of trying to intentionally infect them with COVID-19.
Some people also reported that the level of violence is escalating.
“We’re hearing how someone who might have only been emotionally abusive or financially abusive is now physically abusive,” Justice told VICE News in April. “We’re also hearing how someone who perhaps had never made threats via a firearm are now threatening firearm usage.”
Though police departments across the country reported a spike in domestic violence calls last month, the Hotline had not yet seen an increase in calls as of early April. That’s likely because people are often unable to find a safe place to call for help when they’re spending so much time with their abuser.
“Abuse is about power and control,” Justice told VICE News in March. “And an abuser can use any tool to exert that power and control, including a national health concern, such as COVID-19.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline takes calls 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If you cannot speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
New York’s domestic violence program can be reached via call at 800-942-0906, via text at 844-997-2121, or online at www.opdv.ny.gov . It is staffed 24/7.
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