Domestic violence on the rise during COVID-19 quarantine

Officials have long battled the issue of domestic violence in the Greater Houston area. The Coronavirus pandemic has made that fight more difficult.

Emilee Whitehurst is the President and CEO of Houston Area Women’s Center. She tells Fox 26 “Our offices are closed to walk-ins, and we have had to suspend our groups that we offer. We are gearing up, while Houston is on lockdown we are gearing up.“

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Due to the stay at home order most crimes are down in our area, but officials say because of that order there is a rise in domestic violence incidents. Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo says “anecdotally probably because people are at home, unfortunately sometimes people get a little emotional and can make bad decisions.”

Whitehurst agrees “We have seen an increase in calls on our hotline, just even over the last 5 to 10 days, and we have seen an increase in request for shelter...Economic stress can escalate the violence that people experience, and it cannot provide an opportunity for people to exercise increased levels of coercion control over their partners. Especially when their partner doesn’t have an opportunity to get out to go to work, or go to school, or see their friends.“

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Things can escalate badly when a victim has had enough, so here’s the recommended plan of action:

- Know where your phone is and make sure it is charged at all times.
- If things escalate make sure you are in a room with an easy exit.  (not the kitchen where knives are stored or a bathroom, where you might be trapped)
- If there is a gun in the house, know where it is stored.
- Have a code word with the kids should they need to call 911
- Call the Houston Area Women's Shelter hotlines if you can safely do so, 713-528-2121.

“We do not want people to feel like that in order to honor the stay home order they have to be unsafe in their home," Whitehurst said.

The community can also do its part. Many of the calls coming in are from family, friends, or neighbors. Whitehurst advises, “But don’t blame them in any way, or shame them for being in that situation. Just let them know that you’re there for them and that there is help available if they want it.”

Click here for a full list of other facilities in the Greater Houston area.