If you’re stuck in the house with an abuser, shelters can help

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BY MADDY O’CALLAGHAN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Domestic violence advocates across the state are concerned about a potential increase in abuse as many say quarantine is a recipe for domestic violence. 

Beth Casady, the executive director of the Women’s Center in Marquette, said that the home is the most unsafe place for victims, and many don’t have access to phones or computers. 

With the states’ stay-at-home order, she said many survivors now have limited contact with outside help. 

“It’s been suspiciously quiet since the initial lockdown,” Casady said. “People forget that domestic violence is very silent. It’s truly invisible.”

The president of LACASA, Bobette Schrandt, said her nonprofit organization based in Howell has had a large increase in crisis phone calls. 

She said that many victims are less likely to seek help during quarantine. 

“Domestic violence victims tend to be rule-followers because that’s often a matter of life or death for them,” Schrandt said. “So when there is a rule that you cannot leave your home, victims are following it. 

“Second, victims are worried about coming to a shelter where you could be living with the virus,” she said.

Schrandt said she believes quarantine can be an environment for abuse.

“People are confined to their homes, which causes a lot of stress,” she said. “It’s important to know that this is a power-and-control issue. It’s not an anger issue. 

“When someone has lost control of everything around them, they’re grabbing control of what they have — and that’s the house,” she said. 

Schrandt said she’s especially concerned about children living in abusive households because mandatory reporters no longer have an eye on them through daycare, church or school. 

Mandatory reporters are people who are legally required because of their jobs to tell authorities if they suspect child abuse or neglect. 

Schrandt said domestic violence between spouses often is perpetrated on other members of the family as well.

Casady said that survivors have told her organization that abusers are restricting access to things like soap. 

Others, who are essential workers and still going to their jobs, said that their abusers are making them sleep in the car so they won’t infect the home.

The Women’s Center in Marquette is increasing its education campaign on Facebook so neighbors and friends can be aware of the signs of abuse and know how they can help. 

Casady said that one good way is to see if you can take a walk with a potential victim and ask if everything is okay. 

She said it’s good to set up a safety plan with survivors in case they need one. A common plan, she suggests, is to have a survivor turn on a specific light in her or his house if they need a  neighbor to call the police. 

“This is a time for us to be vigilant about our neighbors,” Casady said. “If you hear something going on, call 911.”

Both organizations still offer their shelter services, though they’re taking increased precautions like masks and routine sanitization. 

LACASA also provides therapy services online via Skype, Zoom or other digital formats. 

Schrandt said many survivors still participate in group therapy. 

She said that there hasn’t been an increase in cancellation rates for counseling sessions, which she believes to be a good sign..

“We’re open and doing business, a little bit differently, but we’re doing it,” Schrandt said.

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