Domestic violence calls rising during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:57 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 09:24:55-04

SOUTHWEST FLA. — During this pandemic, we're being we're being told we're 'Safer at Home.' But imagine your home being where you feel least safe. That's the reality for thousands of people in Southwest Florida every single day because of domestic violence.

Because of COVID-19, tensions are high, and investigators say the number of domestic violence cases is even higher.

"Domestic violence is all about power and control, and right now, nobody has control," Janean Byrne, a Clinical Mental Health Counselor, said.

She owns Serenity Counseling in Fort Myers. She said with people stuck in their homes, someone prone to being violent, is even more likely, because they are reaching for that control.

"Anxieties are higher, depression rates are higher. People just are more emotional. Our frontal cortex is up here. When we're emotional, it shuts down, so we're not making logical decisions," she said.

"We're already seeing the spike in domestic violence," Mike Chionopoulos of Absolute Law said.

He said during quarantine, he's getting a lot more calls from people saying they're being abused by their partners.

"That is also with respect to child abuse. That's all part of domestic violence. If you coop people up, and you already have a relationship that's stressed, and everybody's kind of staying together for the kids and all of that, then you lock them in the same house for two weeks, there's not a good result," he said.

Chionopoulos said a dramatic increase in alcohol sales during this time is only making the problem worse.

"I've heard a figure as high as 58 percent increase in alcohol sales. And any time we see an increase in alcohol, unfortunately, we're also going to see a spike in domestic violence that is consistent with that spike in alcohol sales," he said.

To give you some insight into just how much of an increase we're seeing in domestic violence in our area, Fox 4 reached out to Cape Coral police. Between March 8th and April 20th of 2019, they said responded to 289 domestic violence calls. During the same time period in 2020, that number was 389.

Byrne said anyone who feels their life is in danger needs to have a plan.

"Always have a bag packed with important papers, maybe in an outfit, whatever you will need to at least get you through at least one night. That way, you can always grab that bag, wherever it is, and and you can get out of the situation," Byrne said.

If you are facing domestic abuse, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119. For other resources, click here.