UTAH (ABC4) – One in four women and about one in 10 men have experienced sexual or physical violence or stalking from an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Statistics show that the number of domestic violence related calls in Utah have gone up during the past year, which was possibly impacted by stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Liz Sollis, spokesperson for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, since last March, the state has seen anywhere from a 25% to 50% increase.
“It kind of just depends on where in the state it’s happening. But I would say we lean more towards the end of that scale- towards the 50 percent in pretty much a good portion of the higher populated areas,” she says.
However, Sollis says that she has seen this trend in smaller towns as well. The statistics come from the increase in domestic violence-related calls to the LINK Line, a statewide domestic violence hotline that victims can call to get connected with resources in their community.
According to Sollis, that number may be lower than the actual number of domestic violence cases. She says people may not call because they do not recognize that they are in an abusive situation because they have not experienced physical or sexual violence in their relationship.
“A good portion of people will experience a lot of emotional, verbal, psychological abuse, financial control, spiritual abuse, where perhaps their partner is abusive to them about what religious sects they want to follow or things like that,” Sollis tells ABC4.
She says another factor that may affect the number of calls is that the phone line is now staffed with advocates rather than volunteers. This increased the number of calls because if volunteers were not available, calls would get redirected to national hotline.
According to Sollis, domestic violence service providers throughout the state have their own crisis lines, so people can call crisis lines in their community. Those crisis lines have seen an increase in the number of calls and the frequency of calls, she states.
Another statistic that has gone up since last March is the number of people needing shelter care.
“If they need emergency shelter, they don’t have another place to be. We’ve seen an increase in requests for that, as well as an increase in the length of stay,” she says. “So people are needing help longer, which could be attributed to finances. It could be attributed to employment opportunities that might not be as readily available.”
Due to COVID-19 precautions, shelters have had to limit how many people can be in their facility and set up alternate shelters for those with COVID-19, Sollis adds. This requires additional staff.
She says 2020 also saw more domestic violence related homicides than 2019. Sollis says that though COVID-19 might play a contributing factor in the increase, it’s not solely to blame.
“… if a person commits a domestic violence-related homicide against another person, that is one hundred percent their choice. The true cause is power and control.”
However, some good has come out of this dark situation.
“2020 has shone a light on a lot more abuse that takes place in our community, and fortunately, one thing I will say that’s a positive is I do believe more people have become aware of resources, like domestic violence service providers or sexual assault service providers and are reaching out,” Sollis says.
And actions are being taken to help victims of domestic violence.
What is being done?
Sollis says from what she has seen, there has been more and more public awareness on domestic violence, such as the sharing of resources and more virtual trainings and opportunities are being made available to inform people.
For example, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition offers webinars that anyone can participate in.
“I think just getting the community informed about what it is,” Sollis says of domestic violence. “What it looks like, and that there’s not just one stereotypical victim.”
Detective Marie Stewart from the Salt Lake City Police Department says that the numbers for domestic violence calls are up in the city. She says that when police are informed or learn of domestic violence situations, they do everything in their power to prevent them from continuing.
That involves connecting victims with a victim advocate right away, Stewart says. Since victims historically will not reach out to advocates on their own, Stewart says that the police department will contact the advocate and encourage victims to go down the counseling route. They also will connect them with resources.
Resources for those in domestic violence situations
According to Sollis, working with a victim advocate can be helpful to victims because they can direct victims to resources so they will not have to navigate them alone.
However, here is a list of just some of the many resources available:
24-Hour LINKLine- 1-800-897-5465
Sollis says that victims, friends and loved ones who have questions, and perpetrators can call this number for help. If someone recognizes that they are abusive, they can get help too.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
UDVC.org: Find domestic violence service providers throughout Utah