DC-area law enforcement concerned over potential spike in domestic violence

As stress levels rise among millions working from home and spending extra time with family during the coronavirus pandemic, law enforcement across the region, including the D.C. area, are focused on the potential for an increase in domestic violence cases.

One of the most recent incidents was in Glen Burnie, Maryland, where Anne Arundel County police responded to the 8500 block of Larsen Street on Monday and found Timothy Gough, 52, standing outside his home covered in blood.

Inside the home, they found 32-year-old Shannon Sauters stabbed; she later died at the hospital. A witness told investigators that Gough and Sauters got into an argument, which turned violent when Gough allegedly stabbed Sauters, his girlfriend, in their home.

Gough has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, and he is being held without bond, police said.

Confining abusers and victims at home is adding pressure to what already might be a violent situation, said Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who had been the county’s state’s attorney.

“Domestic violence still remains an issue in many of our communities, and we are seeing that the stress and tension that this brings often brings about more and more of those cases,” Alsobrooks said.

She also said that commissioners’ offices are still issuing domestic violence petitions during the COVID-19 crisis.

The county’s Family Justice Center is closed to the public, but it is offering its services over the phone, Alsobrooks said. She noted the importance of sharing the contact number — 301-780-8008 — as a resource.

Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin High released information on how his department is navigating policing during the coronavirus outbreak, and that issuing peace and protective orders remains an important business for the department.

Concern over familial stress and domestic violence is a topic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam took time to discuss during a recent news conference.

“For many people, this increased stress can exacerbate underlying health conditions. It can bring increased depression, anxiety and the risk of domestic violence,” Northam said.

Virginia and other jurisdictions have kept crisis and domestic violence hotlines open, including as many resources as possible that are available during the states of emergency.

Northam stressed the importance of sharing those resources, including the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, which has a crisis counseling hotline that provides crisis counseling and support. The number is 1-800-985-5990, and Northam urged every resident to check in on each other’s physical and mental health.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine took to Twitter on Tuesday, using the hashtag #DCFamilyTalk, to interact with teens about managing stress and conflict at home.

Participating students, who could earn community service by asking questions, retweeting and writing a short paper on the subject, asked about de-escalating conflict with siblings and how to communicate with a family member in crisis.

Dr. Akosoa McFadgion, with Howard University’s Interpersonal Violence Prevention Program, participated in Racine’s chat. She pinned a tweet at the top of her feed to ensure students can easily find resources if they need to talk.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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