Kent Co. seeing spike in domestic violence amid shutdown

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is seeing an increase in domestic violence calls amid the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Advocacy experts hope the reality many are facing remains top of mind long after communities get back to normal.

“People lose their sense of control when they lose their job, their livelihood,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young told News 8. “People are in an enclosed space without much release for stress and the outcome is an increase in violence. Our officers are seeing that every day right now.”

She said domestic violence calls are up 35% over last year right now.

In response, the department and the YWCA West Central Michigan have teamed up to send out mailers to remind people to look out for their neighbors.

“We know that domestic violence, even long before COVID, that domestic violence happens in neighborhoods all over the community,” YWCA CEO Charisse Mitchell told News 8. “There aren’t specific spots or hot spots, it happens everywhere, and we just recognized with this sense of isolation neighbors are just in a really good position to see things that ordinarily we can’t see.”

Mitchell and LaJoye-Young explained a factor contributing to the increase in calls is that many places where victims go for support — churches, schools or social gatherings — can’t be that outlet during the shutdown.

“That’s part of the reason why we’re building out things on our website that’s specifically designed for neighbors,” Mitchell added. “So, it’s resources that people can tap into and ways, in fact, they can start a conversation if they’re worried about someone.”

The YWCA has adapted to moving more services online in response to the pandemic, so it still be there for those who need help.

“The YW is a place that doesn’t close. We may be offering our services a bit differently, but we still have our 24/7 helpline that people can call day or night. Our shelter is still functioning. We are still performing sexual assault exams. None of that has changed, we’re just offering things like support groups and counseling and advocacy, virtually,” Mitchell explained.

Resources offered by the YWCA can be found on its website.

If you believe someone is in immediate danger, it’s recommended you call police.

“If you do hear something that you think is an immediate threat, call 9-1-1. Officers are trained to deal with this,” the sheriff added.

People can expect mailers aimed at helping combat domestic violence to arrive in their mailbox before the end of the month.

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