SPARTANBURG, SC. (WSPA) – Stay at home orders are being lifted in several states across the U.S. But health experts are still encouraging social distancing and staying at home to stay safe, but for victims of domestic violence and child abuse, home isn’t safe either.
Data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) found that on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. In one year, that equates to more than 10 million women and men. Additionally, more than 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported, according to DoSomething.org.
She added, although survivors are no longer prey to their abusers, a survivor could still feel trapped in their own homes.
“You start to feel that heightened anxiety. You feel as though the walls are starting to close in on you because you can’t get out and you can’t have that socialization that you’re used to. That’s why it’s important to be very creative in your communication through avenues such as, you know, Zoom and other social media outlets,” Clark said.
She explained that her family has regular Zoom party calls and that she also reaches out by phone to check-in with friends.
7News has mentioned how the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SC DSS) was affected by the quarantine. Department Director Michael Leach explained that in the beginning, the shutdown had done some harm to children.
“The child abuse hotline is still active and still running. We’ve seen a decrease in calls. Close to 55% of calls, a decrease in the call volume. A lot of that is to do with children being out of school teachers are our eyes and ears and a referral source,” Leach said.
He noted that while the department continued do everything that they could, with courts initially closed and teachers not able to report on their students, it felt like their hands were tied.
But, Leach said community members helping one another, and the department learning how to use internet calls, portals and connections helped employees get back on track.
Greenville Clinical Social Worker and Therapist, Suntia Smith, agreed that community members need to responsibly step up and speak out for those who can’t.
“It’s up to you if you see something. I want you to take that responsibility. But then also to be cautious in what you are reporting. Be cautious about the steps that you are taking,” Smith said. “You want to be aware of that process. So always report it but I also just want you to ask the proper authorities the questions of ‘Once I report this, what are the next steps?’ So that we can really keep everybody safe.”
While phone calls, video conferencing applications, and text messages have been proven to be great ways to connect, Clark said that it’s important check up on those who’ve gone uncharacteristically silent.
“It is very critical to continue to reach out to those loved ones. If it means going through your contact list and those individuals that you haven’t talked to in a while make that phone call. You never know what that simple hello will actually do in terms of uplifting the other person on the other end of the phone,” Clark advised.
Studies from DoSomething.org and Child Trends found the rate of child abuse across the U.S. has change little over several years. But it is staggeringly lower in 2017 than in 1990, yet on average 5 children a day die from abuse.
Therefore, it’s advised that if you suspect something, when you reaching out, do more than just “hear” the person.
“Really listening to the person on the other end of that phone when they say that they’re okay. Because we’ve become programmed to be able to say we’re okay, when in actuality, we’re sheltering in fear,” Clark said.
“A lot of time we can keep secrets and nobody knows what’s going on behind closed doors. So, find a safe place that you can say, ‘Hey this is what’s happening. Let me talk through it.’ Then if that person, once you talk to them, and you feel as thought ‘Okay, I need to remove myself.’ Then they can kind of help you take those steps,” Smith said.
SC DSS added that anything: a phone call, social distance visit, drop off of necessary items, or actively reaching out to authorities, are all great forms of helping the department help those in need.
“We have folks going out and again investigating the safety of children and adults who maybe putting themselves at risk. It’s a really tough time, it’s overwhelming,” Leach said. “Our work is based on timeliness. How and what’s the urgency? How timely can you do this? Because without that it affects children and families and adults.”
“So your role is to be a supporter. A non-judgmental supporter and always have an open door and an open heart. Ready to walk along side that person when they’re ready to take those steps and keep encouraging them and have them to know that there is life on the other side,” Clark added.