Services still available for domestic violence victims in Vermont

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 4:40 PM EDT
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Domestic violence reports are increasing during Vermont's stay-at-home order. And advocates say the calls coming in are dire. Our Cat Viglienzoni spoke with the executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence about what they're seeing.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Can you quantify how that increase has been for your organization?

Karen Tronsgard-Scott/Vt. Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence: You know, it's really interesting. When we first, um, experienced this, this mandatory isolation, the cost of the hotlines significantly dropped and it was really kind of frightening because we know that people housed in are in a house with an abusive partner. There, there's every reason to understand that the level of violence would quickly escalate, but the cost of the hotline were dropping. But we were seeing small increases to calls to law enforcement agencies and those calls were, um, situations that were pretty significantly dangerous. So what we, what we're hypothesizing is that people were waiting until they just couldn't wait any longer to reach out. Um, and they were reaching out to law enforcement officers cause they needed immediate help, uh, and they were insignificant danger. Now we're seeing, uh, as things start to normalize just a little bit, we're seeing those, the hotline calls, um, increased to, um, close to or in some areas a little bit more than normal rates.

So, you know, last year the domestic violence, um, organizations that serve people in our states are, uh, answered around 80,000 hotline calls. Um, and so we'll, you know, we'll see what happens in 2020 with those calls. But the thing that I'm hearing from the field regularly is that when people are calling the situation is dire. It's um, things have gotten to the breaking point and there it's quite horrible and um, and they're really worried and afraid. We have, we do have numbers from Washington County, Washington County's reporting a doubling in the number of criminal charges filed. Um, let's think about assault in the past month or so. So, so we anticipate that they're leading, they're the leading edge.

Cat Viglienzoni: What are the other resources that are available for people who are getting to this point where they've been in a stay at home stay safe situation for weeks now and they're starting to not feel safe.

Karen Tronsgard-Scott/Vt. Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence: The thing that we want survivors to know, people living with abusive partners to know is if they are the point where they want to leave-- even if they don't want to leave forever-- there are services available to them. They just, they pick up the phone, contact, uh, uh, um, the hotline, the domestic violence hotline to have a look at our website, the Vermont Network website. You can find your closest domestic violence program on that website and reach out and, and get help. And if you make that call, what you're finding is the person on the other end is going to help you do some safety planning. So they're going to help you think about how to understand when your use of partner is with intentions building. They're going to help you perhaps take a look at finding them there. If there's a way that you can put the gun someplace and put the ammunition someplace else so that they're not easily accessible, they're going to help you, um, develop a plan for keeping yourself and your kids safe.

And part of that plan might be that you come into a shelter, nobody knows a survivor's life better than a survivor, right? I know life best, you know your like best gap. So, um, the, so the person on the other end of that phone is not going to tell anybody what to do, but they're going to talk about what's available. So what's available today is the same things that were available on February 1 shelter support, uh, help with some housing issues, help with getting a protection order through the court system. All those things are still available. Uh, just, we're just not going to meet with folks, um, for the most part in person. But of course, if you're coming into shelter, somebody will be there to meet with you. If you live in a jurisdiction where the judge wants parties to appear in person, in court for a protection order, then the advocate will be able to meet with you there. Although maintaining all the proper distance and, uh, you know, wearing masks and things like that.

If you need immediate help, call 911.

For help:

Domestic Violence Hotline -- 1-800-228-7395

Sexual Violence Hotline -- 1-800-489-7273

Child Abuse Hotline -- 1-800-649-5285

Teen Dating Abuse Hotline -- 1-866-331-9474

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