Sandy Linked To Increased Domestic Violence [AUDIO]
Domestic violence reports have been on the rise since Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, according to shelters and help lines across the state.
Patty Sly, Executive Director at Jersey Battered Women's Service (JBWS) in Morris County, said her group was taking in victims right from the emergency room during the October storm.
"I think any crisis escalates violent behavior or the potential for it," Sly said. "I think when people lose their jobs or lose some of the resources they rely on, the stresses increase."
Couples, whether strained or not, were stranded in a unique situation that had not been experienced in our lifetime. Homes were destroyed, people were left in the dark for weeks, and the stress was apparently too much to handle for some.
Experts have said that a natural disaster like Sandy could also put domestic violence survivors at risk of going back to their abusers.
"People who are in a vulnerable state sometimes put themselves at risk in order to get shelter," explained Bari Weinberger, a Matrimonial Law Attorney with the Weinberger Law Group in Freehold and Parsippany. "They go to the person who might have sheltered them in the past."
Sly said her group "absolutely" noticed an uptick in calls following the storm, both for new cases and from existing clients. She said many survivors who lived on their own were missing out on paychecks or losing jobs completely.
"That's a huge setback for a domestic violence victim when they're trying to achieve self-sufficiency," Sly said.
There are many resources in New Jersey for victims of domestic abuse or those who feel they've been wrongfully accused, according to Weinberger.
"First of all, they can go to the police. They can go to battered women shelters...They can go directly to the court," she said.
There is a domestic violence shelter in every New Jersey county. The 24-hour help line at JBWS is 973-267-4763.