COVID-19 Has Impacted the Rate of Domestic Violence in Central Indiana: Here’s How You Can Help

2020 was a dark year for a number of reasons. One was the increase in domestic violence cases.
A woman with love shouldn't hurt written on her back

Trigger warning: This article includes discussion of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Network (DVN) recently released the 2020 edition of their State of Domestic Violence in Central Indiana report. The numbers are devastating and show that while COVID-19 didn’t cause domestic violence, it exacerbated it.

Some key takeaways:

  • Calls to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) for domestic violence nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020.
  • There were 41 domestic violence-related fatalities in 2020. Thirty-three (81%) of these deaths used a firearm.
  • 1,152 individuals were denied service due to capacity issues.
  • 13,500 service calls were made to five agencies in Marion County and the surrounding counties.
woman with short brown curly hair wearing navy blue collared shirt smiles with teeth
Kelly McBride of DVN

“Domestic violence was always there, but the stressors of COVID-19 made it worse,” Indiana DVN Executive Director, Kelly McBride, said. “And it made it so that those individuals who were maybe in an emotional or verbal relationship where you can’t call the police on that — that escalated into physical domestic violence.”

Kelly has been with the organization since 2010 and has led the organization for nine years. When she started working for DVN, there were two staff members with a budget of $300,000. Today, they recently hired their eighth staff member and are working with a $1.2 million budget.

“Believe it or not, we didn’t talk about domestic violence when I was going through grad school for social work. I didn’t know what it was,” Kelly said. “I knew I wanted to focus on women’s issues. Then I found out about domestic violence. And I thought every single person deserves a healthy household. And domestic violence is preventable.”

In the last several years, the organization has been able to do a lot to engage the local community to change the culture that leads to domestic violence through advocacy, education, and collaboration. But when the numbers were skyrocketing in 2020, they knew they needed to do even more — and fast.

The biggest issue they saw was the requirement for social distancing in the shelters, which led to many survivors of domestic violence being turned away. The shelters are normally full anyway, so when the shelters became full at half their normal capacity, the violence escalated.

While on a call with another state, Kelly learned they were using hotel rooms as a shelter-in-place opportunity for survivors. She mentioned the idea to Coburn Place, and soon after, the organization received $10,000 from The Brave Heart Foundation. Along with support from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the City of Indianapolis, and Firefly Children & Family Alliance — DVN was able to provide 248 people with hotel stays.

“Just knowing we were able to place those individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have placement — it was nice,” Kelly said.

Although domestic violence is in theory preventable, Kelly knows it’s probably always going to be an issue. While domestic violence increased in 2020, Kelly is still not seeing a decrease yet, but she hopes there will be a change now that shelters are going back to operating at full capacity. Also, there was a lot of turnover experienced during COVID-19, and organizations were not fully staffed and able to help as many people as before. Now, Kelly is seeing organizations becoming fully staffed, and she hopes that will make a positive difference.

orange graphic with data on it about how many people were denied domestic abuse help service in central indiana due to capacity issues across organizations“Moving forward, it just shows me how prevalent domestic violence is in our community, even though we don’t have that much data,” Kelly said. “It’s one of the most underreported crimes that there is. Seeing that over 1,000 people were denied services — how do we make that not happen again?”

In order to make a difference, survivors need your help as well. Although DVN received $10,000 to provide shelter stays, they used the last of the donation in May 2021. Kelly explained that many survivors flee domestic violence situations with nothing on their backs and service providers are stretched thin, so they desperately need the support of others.

So, how can you help? Kelly encourages Mavens to donate their time, talent, and/or treasure:

  • Time: Volunteer at your local shelter or service provider and help with whatever is needed.
  • Talent: Sit on a board or committee and be involved. Everyone has a skill set and can apply it for good.
  • Treasure: Survivors need financial support in order to get back on their feet again.

Another way to help is to reduce the stigma around domestic violence, and one way to reduce the stigma is by talking about it. The more we talk about it, the less stigma there will be.

Kelly also explained that it’s not as simple as a survivor walking away from their abusive partner and leaving, because there are many factors that can affect why a person stays in an abusive relationship.

“It takes an average of five to seven times for a person to leave before they do leave. And one of the things we know is they love that person, they just want the violence to stop,” Kelly said. “Her staying is not against the law, but him abusing her is. I think we need to switch that narrative.”

Local organizations to support:

If you are experiencing domestic violence and would like to receive help, call the numbers of the organizations above, or:

  • Julian Center 24 Hour Crisis Line: 317-920-9320
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Lauren Carpenter is a marketing & media strategist who is passionate about using her talents to give a voice for the voiceless. You can find her on LinkedIn & Instagram.

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