Since the start of the stay-at-home order, Montgomery County, Maryland, has seen a dramatic spike in domestic abuse cases.
In response, the county has launched the Family Violence Awareness and Prevention Campaign, which it hopes will not only get the attention of victims, but also catch the eyes of those who believe a friend, family member or neighbor is being abused.
The county has created materials with information about how victims can get help and how others can spot potential cases of abuse during the pandemic. It will be printed on receipts printed out by some retailers, and several restaurants in the area will include the information on flyers in bags for carry out orders.
“The concern is if people are isolated at home, they don’t know how or where or are unable to access resources,” said Debbie Feinstein, the chief of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Family Violence Unit.
Montgomery County police Chief Marcus Jones said the department’s domestic violence unit has seen a 25% increase in cases since early March. Many of those cases involved the use of knives and guns, Jones said.
Abuse cases among children and the elderly have gone down, but Jones said there is a potential reason for the decrease.
“Many of those who may have been victimized or maybe victimized during this time aren’t being seen by the usual reporters, such as teachers and health care workers,” Jones said.
One of those announcing the effort and encouraging victims to seek help was a local domestic abuse survivor, who knows what victims are going through. She said she endured years of abuse at the hands of a former partner.
“I lived with constant fear for years. As soon as old bruises healed, I received new ones. I was strangled until I passed out. I was dragged by my hair. I had things thrown at me. I was locked in a room, hit consistently and even faced with a knife,” she said.
The information contained in the materials is also meant to help victims recognize the signs of abuse. Such signs include being involved with someone who insults, demeans or shames a person with put downs; who controls all the money in a relationship, what their partner sees, where they go or what they do.
They could also threaten physical harm or try to intimidate the victim with weapons.
“We should all feel safe in our homes, but the reality is, not everyone does,” said county Executive Marc Elrich.
There are also other signs that could indicate a friend or family member is being abused, experts say.
Has someone you know gone from keeping in close contact to being hard to reach? Were they willing to do video chats weeks ago but now are unwilling to do so?
Those could be signs of someone in an abusive situation.
Neighbors may hear domestic violence occurring in a neighboring home or apartment. Anyone who suspects a case of domestic violence is encouraged to report it.
The Montgomery County Crisis Center is open 24/7 and can be reached at 240-777-4000. Also, the county has set up an email for those who need help, email@example.com.
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