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COVID-19 Creating 'Relentless Need' For Victims of Domestic Violence

domestic violence shelter t-shirts
Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
T-shirts made by families impacted by domestic violence hang at a shelter in New Britain, Connecticut.

A nonprofit that houses victims of domestic violence is faced with a need it characterized as “relentless.” That need comes at a time when the potential for abuse increases with families staying at home to combat the spread of coronavirus.

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Mary-Jane Foster, president and CEO of the Greater Hartford nonprofit Interval House, said the virus is exacerbating the situation surrounding domestic violence -- and on top of that, safe houses in Connecticut are generally at capacity.

“Not only are we working with victims and survivors of domestic violence who need to constantly reassess their safety and how they stay safe in this environment, but they’re experiencing all the other things that we’re experiencing: fear of the virus, perhaps loss of job or income, children at home, home-schooling, concern for friends or family, so the pressure is intense,” Foster said.

She said among the considerations Interval House is working through at this time of heightened alert is the spread of the virus in safe houses.

“One is the danger of someone coming into a safe house where she may not know what she’s being exposed to, nor do we know what she may be bringing in,” Foster said.

The number of domestic-related incidents have picked up in at least one of the areas Interval House serves. A Hartford police lieutenant said Monday that dispatchers got 34 more calls between April 5 and 11 than they did the week prior. 

Lt. Paul Cicero said his department quickly put together a four-officer domestic incident unit when it recognized an uptick in activity.

“These officers assigned to the Domestic Violence Response Unit can also monitor repeated activity at any specific address, while also providing critical services and serve domestic warrants when applicable,” Cicero said.

“We have been working very closely with Mary-Jane Foster and her team at the Interval House, as well Daniel Cargill from the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Both agencies have offered additional services and support in an effort to better serve the residents of Hartford.”

Foster said her court advocates have seen a “marked increase” in the number of protective orders that have been violated.

“That’s a very, very dangerous situation,” Foster said.

Foster wants Connecticut residents to know they can help people at risk of suffering domestic violence. She said concerned citizens should check on colleagues, family and friends. She also recommended that people either donate cash or send gift cards to local nonprofits that address this type of abuse.

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