DETROIT – The coronavirus pandemic has created dual danger for women and men who suffer from domestic abuse and sexual violence.
A combination of fear, uncertainty and what appears to be a small loophole in Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order has created more calls and challenges in removing abusers, according to Turning Point, a local shelter for victims.
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One abuse survivor who goes by the name Tracy shared her story with Local 4 News.
Tracy showed what the doors in her home look like after a rampage by her ex-boyfriend. She says, first he victimized her house, verbally abused her and then assaulted her last week.
“He’s very manipulative, I have feelings for him. It’s hard when you love someone, it’s really hard now, too and I didn’t want to cause problems for him. I just wanted him to go. But he was refusing,” she said.
Sharman Davenport, CEO of Turning Point says since the Stay Home Stay Safe Order was issued March 24, she has seen a 25-30% increase in calls on the violence hotline.
She also believes those numbers under-represent what is actually going on. Because of fear and uncertainty, she believes abuse is flying beneath the radar.
“We believe victims of sexual assault are not coming in, because they are afraid to come to the office,” said Davenport.
COVID-19 and the Stay-at-Home order create a dangerous cocktail cycle of fear and uncertainty. Haven in Pontiac has reported a 10% increase from last year. Also, abuse is being under reported because survivors aren’t able to make a phone call to a shelter or an agency because the abuser and children are home with them which makes a safe phone call more difficult.
Haven has reported, three total homicides and says abuse continues to escalate with incidents becoming more lethal.
Gun violence has increased as well as threats involving weapons including strangulation. Marital abuse and rape is on the rise but not being reported to the police.
“Because we are in such unsafe times… such turbulent times. The problem is you are going to be less likely to have your abuser leave until they escalate to a point where you have a fear for your safety. You are afraid to go at this alone. You are afraid to go into the shelter. You’re not sure if the shelter is safe to be there. There are a lot of factors that make this more difficult to manage,” said Davenport.
But there’s also a loophole in the executive order that states evictions aren’t allowed during the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, which could make it more difficult for people living with abuse to escape their abuser.
“It’s important to recognize that these situations with the stay-at-home orders and the problems evicting make it more dangerous than normal. I would like police to recognize they play a key role in keeping these families safe, and be understanding and really take the time to explore what’s really going on so they can be the protector when they are intervening in these situations,” said Davenport.
The Personal Protection Order should be the first step in removing an abuser. It takes the place of an eviction order.
“Domestic abuse and sexual assault are having more difficulties in dealing with this because it’s creating creating triggers that some of them normally have but it’s now heightened by this situation,” said Davenport.