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Valley domestic abuse hotline sees an increase in calls

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:57 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - For domestic abuse victims, being home can be a nightmare, and when lockdowns started in March 2020 they were confined to a space with an abusive partner.

Higher rates of domestic abuse were reported at the start of the pandemic. Many experts believe that was due to extra time with everyone at home.

New Directions in Staunton has seen an increase in calls since the lockdown was lifted.
New Directions in Staunton has seen an increase in calls since the lockdown was lifted.(WHSV)

Lockdowns made it harder for victims to make phone calls. That loss of privacy meant some couldn’t make calls for help they might have in the past.

New Directions, a non-profit organization dedicated to those affected by violence, assault, trafficking and stalking, says the number of phone calls to their hotline decreased in 2020. However, the number of texts and emails received went up.

Joy Ingram, Community Engagement Coordinator, says their interactions with the community decreased when COVID-19 cases rose locally.

“It was difficult for people to get out and engage with us and because of the pandemic and because of the lockdown,” said Ingram.

Once restrictions were lifted and more people returned to work, Ingram says they started seeing an uptick in calls.

“Since the restrictions have gone away, we have seen an increased need in our counseling services,” said Justin Lingenfelter, Director of Program Development.

In fact, New Directions had to hire a mental health counselor to meet this increased need for services.

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office says that in 2019, 273 cases of domestic abuse were reported. In 2020, that number was 278. So far this year, they’ve seen 126 cases.

Ingram says it’s very important to remember domestic violence happens in every community, and there are many forms of abuse.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in the context of an intimate partner relationship where one person in the relationship tries to exert power or control over the other person,” said Ingram.

Domestic violence can be physical, psychological, financial and sexual, Ingram said.

To reach Staunton’s New Directions Center, call 540-886-6800. For statewide help, call 1-800-838-8238. You can also text an advocate at 804-793-9999 or chat online here.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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