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Domestic abuse increasing due to coronavirus pandemic according to survivor advocates

Circumstances created by stay at home orders and remote learning are contributing to a rise in domestic abuse this year.

Advocates for domestic violence survivors say domestic abuse is increasing in Ohio due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Legal Aid of Western Ohio, there are tens of thousands of domestic violence related calls to police in Ohio every year.

Adding circumstances like a child remote learning or a parent working from home, and there's an increased risk for victims of domestic abuse

"Some people will say 'I'm not a victim of domestic violence' because they don't really understand what that means," said Lucinda Weller, an attorney for Legal Aid of Western Ohio. "It doesn't have to mean just hitting. Often times there can be economic abuse."

In the last few days, Lucas County has seen 13 people booked into jail with domestic violence charges.

Weller says that's just the beginning of the problem.

That number doesn't factor in victims who don't file charges or the people who violate restraining orders.

Weller says one tool for domestic violence survivors is to file that restraining order against their abusers.

But restraining orders are on track to be down this year.

The group says there were 791 protection orders in 2019 compared to just 580 so far in 2020.

The primary reason for the drop, according to Weller, can be traced back to the coronavirus pandemic. Victims might not feel comfortable going to the courthouse for a protective order during a pandemic. 

Or they might bypass an in-person visit with their medical professional and opt for a telemedicine appointment. Weller says victims are less likely, then, to talk about their abuse when the abuser is in the home at the same time.

The goal for organizations like the Legal Aid of Western Ohio is to help victims before a life is lost.

Between July 2018 and June 2019, 81 Ohio residents were killed by their abusers.

A number that has increased during the covid-19 pandemic.

In the same time period a year later, 109 Ohioans were killed by their abuser.

Weller says, resources to get help are still available.

"Even though the pandemic is going on, those resources haven't stopped. There are resources, there are victim services, there are legal services like us," said Weller.

If you're a victim of domestic abuse, you can call the YWCA crisis hotline at 419-241-7386. For legal help, call Legal Aid of Western Ohio at 1-888-534-1432.

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