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3News Investigates: Coronavirus isolation raises concerns for domestic violence survivors

'Stay at Home' orders are meant to keep you safe during the COVID-19 pandemic but that’s not the case for those living in abusive homes.

CLEVELAND — “Stay at Home” orders are meant to keep you safe during the COVID-19 pandemic but that’s not the case for those living in abusive homes.

In April 2017, a Warrensville Heights man beat up his wife and then set fire to their apartment complex.

Credit: WKYC

It wasn’t the first time he laid a hand on her.

"When it was good, it was good and when it was bad, it was bad, and instead of trying to walk away, I was sucked back in," said Florine Chislton.

Chislton is sharing her story because she says the Coronavirus brings a different kind of danger to those in abusive relationships.

"Do you worry the longer this stay at home order lasts, the more domestic violence cases we'll see?" 3News investigator Rachel Polansky asked Chislton.  

"Yes. Everybody should we worried about that," said Chislton.

Melissa Graves, CEO of the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center,  already is.

"For a number of people, home is not a safe place," Graves said.

Graves said domestic violence calls are already up at DVCAC. 

"Isolation is one of the tools that abusers use to keep people in an abusive relationship and now there's an added layer of isolation and almost permission to be isolating people," Graves said.

Domestic Violence

That – in addition to job losses and school closures -- can worsen already strained relationships.

"The ingredients are all there for there to be a spike in these types of cases," said Lyndhurst Municipal Court Judge Dominic Coletta.

"We are though anticipating a surge now that the governor has put in place that stay at home order," said Summit County Domestic Relations Court Judge Katarina Cook.

Both Lyndhurst Municipal Court Judge Dominic Coletta and Summit County Domestic Relations Court Judge Katarina Cook say they haven’t seen an increase in domestic violence cases yet – but they fear they will.

Judge Coletta also points to an increase in alcohol sales.

"One common component of domestic violence cases is alcohol. When you add alcohol to these extreme stressers, it can create a combustible situation," said Judge Coletta.

Judge Cook worries those who are suffering may not reach out for help

"I’m concerned people don’t know we are open. We are mandated to be open," said Judge Cook. "And I want people know, in a an emergency, they can come down here for help."

According to news reports, the number of domestic violence incidents in both China and France has risen as people across much of those countries have been quarantined.

What can you do if your in an abusive home or your worried about someone else who is? The Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center is still up and running. Give them a call and they can help you think through a plan: 216-391-HELP (4357).

Click here for our special coronavirus section.

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