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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Preparing For An Increase In Domestic Violence Due To COVID-19

Speaker 1: 00:00 Californians are under statewide orders to stay home. Thousands have lost their jobs. People are fearful of catching the coronavirus. All those circumstances increased tension and anxiety and experience has shown that can lead to an increase in domestic violence. Apparently researchers found increased domestic violence during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and more recently in Wu Han China, ground zero for the covert 19 pandemic and sadly police suspected domestic violence and the murder of a Chula Vista woman last weekend. Her husband remains at large law enforcement and advocates against domestic violence and San Diego say they are mounting an effort to address the increased risk. Joining me is San Diego County district attorney summer Stephan and summer. Welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:48 Thanks for having me Speaker 1: 00:49 and Jessica Jada, she is former head of the San Diego domestic violence council. Jessica, welcome to the show. Thanks so much. Glad to be here. So summer Stephan is the combination of increased worry over getting sick and the order to stay at home. Is that likely to spark more domestic violence? Speaker 2: 01:08 We really think it does based on historical numbers that we have following any events that adds to the stressors in one's life. And the number one rule that we know with victims is that isolation is the enemy of victims. And this time right now in history causes increased isolation. Speaker 1: 01:32 And what about the fact that so many people have also been laid off their jobs? How does that raise the potential? Speaker 2: 01:38 That's a huge stressor. Losing a job, having a children at home with increased responsibilities, all of those things. But we don't know of any evidence that it's going to make someone who is not already have a tendency towards violence and abuse become abusive. But for those who are at the brain or are already violent and the way they we act to any kind of stress is by taking it out on their intimate partner, it is definitely something that is guaranteed to bring up the domestic violence numbers. Speaker 1: 02:17 So generally speaking, we're talking about relationships that are already unhealthy. And Jessica, what happens to an unhealthy relationship when tensions rise? Speaker 3: 02:29 Well, when we, when we look at the predictors for unhealthy patterns to increase including experiences or episodes of domestic violence, we know that when there are both internal and external stressors, that the likelihood of those patterns coming to the forefront and or increasing are significant. And so what happens in a relationship is of course going to look different from one relationship to the next. What I will say is that for those who have experienced any sort of relationship abuse, which doesn't just include physical violence, it also includes psychological violence, verbal violence, financial abuse, sexual abuse, et cetera, that when those patterns have existed in a relationship, the likelihood of those same patterns either returning and or increasing are significant. And so what we begin to then see are things like a financial control over money and not allowing a partner access to the bank account or the limited funds that a family system is operating on. We often see an increase in verbal or psychological abuse. And so often there are more explosive verbal episodes happening in the home, which at this point, of course we also worry about children witnessing over hearing, et cetera, and being traumatized in addition to the victim of relationship abuse. And we also expect that those that have experienced physical abuse are unfortunately going to experience those moments of physical aggression more frequently and an ultimate fear being that they will also be more extreme in nature. Speaker 1: 04:07 And Jessica, is there any way to deescalate those tensions when everyone is stuck in the house? Speaker 3: 04:12 Some of the things that we've been talking about as a community that provides support and services to those who are impacted by relationship abuse are things like creating a daily schedule where the harm Dewar and victim are spending time apart. So whether that's taking the kids for a bike ride every day, whether that's walking the neighborhood, that minimizing the amount of time spent together in the unit is going to be helpful and ultimately a protective factor. We also are talking about things like a victim sharing, uh, in a very sort of limited way as much as he or she is comfortable what it is that's happening in their home with a neighbor so that there's an understanding that if the neighbor sees the outside light flickering or here's banging on the wall, that that becomes an indicator to the neighbor that they need to reach out to law enforcement and ask for support. We're also talking about things like offering the victim the opportunity to engage in virtual support, so there are many online support groups that are happening all over the County as well as there being a lot of opportunities for the kiddos to be involved in a variety of activities that are happening virtually as well. The more that we can fill people's time and energy, the better off we are in terms of at least minimizing risk that there's this constant interaction that could lead to an explosive event or episode. Some are Jessica [inaudible]. It makes Speaker 1: 05:42 the point that not all domestic violence is physical. The the mental and emotional abuse can create a toxic environment in the home. Especially for kids. Is there any way law enforcement can address that kind of abuse? Speaker 2: 05:57 We can and do address it, but it has to amount to a crime. None of it is good and it certainly is a precursor to a crime happening and it is a red flag sign, but it has to still words have to amount to a crime. For example, words that sounded like a threat, a threat to withhold food or medical aid or to bring about harm or to harm a child or a pet. All of those words have an implication. Legally they're considered criminal domestic violence behavior. Speaker 1: 06:34 Some are. How is your office sort of stepping up to the concern about an increase in domestic violence? What are you doing? Speaker 2: 06:41 Well. What we focused on is knowing that there's going to be an increase looking at the numbers in the jail booking, which we watch very carefully and seeing that while other forms of crimes, property crimes, crimes that are related to drinking and bars and that sort of thing have gone down, but domestic violence incidents have not in terms of the bookings that we see in jail and we always know that that's an underestimate, so what we wanted to do is to make sure that we sent out a clear lifeline that just because there is physical distancing, there is not social distancing in terms of us being socially connected and available for victims. We rebuffed our website with the use of a researcher that helped us so that our website has not only helped for victims but an all of the resources, very specific as to what resources in terms of shelter, food, diapers, economic, whatever support is needed is provided. Now on our resource page and we also created something unusual which is a resource for would be offenders for those that are teetering where they have those tendencies because of cyclical violence. This is how they grew up, but they're not yet acting out violently, but they see these tendencies and they want to stop. It is also helping that would be abusers with resources to connect and talk through things so that they don't respond in a violent and angry manner. Speaker 1: 08:30 Some are if people do reach out to that website. Does San Diego currently have the capacity to shelter people who need help? Speaker 2: 08:37 You know, we do have the capacity. That's one thing we did by, uh, by putting up the resources is checking actually with each one of the resources to make sure that we don't give our victims just an empty promise so that we know that there are shelter beds and where there are not shelter beds. Because more social distancing and physical distancing is required. There are hotel vouchers and other alternatives that allow for a victim to safely leave the situation. We know that things don't get better. They tend to get worse. Unfortunately, when violence begins. So for a victim to look at those telltale signs and begin the planning process. So it is not sudden, they can start talking with the different providers to see what is an appropriate shelter and place for someone with pets, with children, without pets, without children defending under circumstances and location in our County. Speaker 1: 09:44 And some are, what is the address of that website Speaker 2: 09:46 if they go on San Diego, da.com it is the front banner of our, uh, website because we know that this is urgent and needed. Speaker 1: 09:56 Okay. I've been speaking with San Diego County district attorney summer Stephan and with Jessica Yaffe, a former head of the San Diego domestic violence council. Thank you both very much. Thanks so much for having us, Maureen. Speaker 2: 10:08 Thank you, Maureen.

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Stay-home orders to avoid the coronavirus will mean increased danger of domestic violence, experts fear. Abusers, stressed by unemployment, food insecurity and unpaid bills, may find additional ways to exercise control over their victims. New help for domestic violence sufferers is available locally.
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