SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Law enforcement agencies and domestic violence shelters are seeing a dramatic increase in calls for help.
Since Monday, ABC4 News reviewed dozens of probable cause statements involving domestic violence.
In one Salt Lake County arresting document, a police officer writes, “The seven year old stated that she was very afraid when [Mr. Man] came into the room and “stepped” on [the woman’s] face.”
In another case, an officer writes, “[Man] hit her in the head with a cell phone causing pain.”
In Utah County, an officer wrote in a probable cause statement a “[Man] stabbed victim 1 in the neck,” and “Since they are cohabitants this makes some of these charges enhanced by domestic violence. “
A probable cause statement Wednesday showed us a “[Man] picked up cell phone charger cords and hit her above the right eyebrow but stated it was by accident.
“I think people just need to remember to be aware that it is so easy to like turn your head, and close your ears, and not pay attention to what is going on but it is out there,” says Salt Lake City Police Department Victims Advocate Cari Bobo.
Her department year to date is seeing roughly a 55 percent increase in aggravated assault cases.
“We always have a little bit higher volume during the wintertime when we are all indoors, but defiantly with the pandemic, it’s been higher, and I think the strangulations have been more documented as well,” she says. “We are getting a lot of calls like, ‘I’m not feeling safe at home, where can I go?'”
Experts are finding the increase in domestic violence is more widespread because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last two months, Unified Police detectives report investigating 32 more cases than this time last year.
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of months is a pretty significant increase in domestic violence, and not just the numbers themselves but some pretty violent cases,” says Sergeant Melody Cutler.
In a time where many healthcare officials are urging the public to stay home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement and domestic violence shelters are finding that’s where domestic violence is thriving.
“There are people in our communities where home is not the safe space, and that is important for us to keep in mind that there are people out there that are confined to an environment that is not safe,” says Sgt. Cutler.
Bobo adds, “The most important thing for loved ones, family, aunts, uncles is to listen to them and believe because those domestic violence abusers are trying to isolate them from their family and loved ones.”
In Davis County, Safe Harbor Director of Development Glady Larsen tells us, “All of these cases, unfortunately, power is very important. They have complete control over someone if they cannot leave their home, and that is what we are seeing and unfortunately, that’s making every case a little bit more dangerous for those involved.”
In 2020, Safe Harbor found nearly 300 people permanent housing and is on track to help 5,000 individuals this year, doubling its caseload from 2019.
“I think one of the things that we saw as Thanksgiving just went by is the numbers increased dramatically,” Larsen adds. “In one week we went up from the previous week almost 50 percent from the previous week.”
Victims advocates say part of the reason for the rise in domestic violence cases includes:
- Increased alcohol consumption and/or substance use
- Family tensions
- Loss of employment
- Financial strain
Larsen says there are two things experts say you can do to spot a potential victim of domestic violence. Look for a change in behavior and a withdraw from any communication.
She says, “I think family members and friends can be crucial to be able to identify those signs.”
And if you’re a neighbor concerned something is getting out of hand, call the police.
“People will sometimes want to say it’s none of my business, no this is a time when you even slightly suspect – it’s better to err on the side of caution, and just have the police show up and make sure everything is ok, or get there before it becomes violent and hopefully get those things calmed down, and get them defused before it becomes something more where someones injured or potentially could lose their life,” says Sgt. Cutler.
Many of the domestic violence shelters tell ABC4 News because of the pandemic, there is a need for monetary donations and volunteers to help with the caseloads. If you would like to help, you’re urged to contact your local shelter to see what their needs are.