VENICE — There’s been a noticeable increase in local domestic violence arrests over the past few weeks, according to police documents.
At this point, it’s too early to know if it’s just a random bump, or a sign that stress over coronavirus is spilling over into domestic spats.
To be sure, more people are losing their jobs or are otherwise stressed with trying to shelter in place with family as the coronavirus clamp down hits the state.
Kaitlyn Perez, spokeswoman with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, said she hasn’t seen any indication that’s happening at this point.
Josh Taylor, spokesman for the city of North Port, said he anticipates it will come.
“If more people are spending time at home and people are under a large amount of stress, it’s likely that we’re going to see an uptick in that. That’s fair to say,” Taylor said. “You have more people with more free time. The added stresses for some of not knowing where the next paycheck is coming, and some self medicating going on.”
“We expect to see a surge,” said Jessica Hays, president and CEO of Safe Place And Rape Crisis Center in Sarasota.
“We have seen that after other disasters and crisis situations. Right now it does feel a little quiet. I just compared our hotline calls from last year at this time and we’re about the same. We expect as people shelter literally and figuratively, all of the things that were boiling over during a (recent) crisis may come out,” Hays said.
“With some of the restrictions right now in place, there’s that much more isolating going on, and (potential victims) have less time or opportunity to reach out for help. It might be a friend they see once a week, or a teacher they usually see and would speak to. Or she may not see that neighbor she sees once a week and is planning to seek help. Right now people are not able to access those people for help and we’re very concerned about that,” Hays said.
SPARCC is a safe house that’s currently nearly full. Hays said as organizations and nonprofits shut down, so do opportunities to partner with and find shelter for those in need.
“It’s that much more of a barrier to get resources,” Hays said.
The good news is SPARCC is open. Attorney’s are still taking on clients for emergency injunctions. And courts are still holding domestic violence injunction hearings in person, Hays said.
“We are in unchartered territory,” said Kathryn Shea, licensed clinical social worker and CEO of The Florida Center. “One thing we do know is that more families than ever will need support, especially as so many are already facing hardships like poverty, substance abuse, and physical or mental health challenges. Our goal is to continue providing resources for caregivers that promote children’s healthy development and ultimately prevent child abuse.”
Tips, tools, and resources will be regularly added to agency websites and social media pages. The SPARCC helpline is 941-365-1976.