Domestic violence in NJ: A spike in calls coming in January?
When COVID-related lockdown measures eased up, the flood gates opened for domestic violence hotlines and shelters throughout New Jersey.
More than a year later, agencies in the Garden State continue to see increased demand today, and the situation may become even worse in the new year.
"I'm still baffled. It has been a steady increase," said Julye Myner, executive director of Center for Hope & Safety, located in Rochelle Park.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Center for Hope & Safety's shelter program was handling approximately 30 people on any given day, according to Myner. Late last week, that count was higher than 150.
Their original "safe house" is filled to capacity, so the agency is using five additional sites.
Year-over-year volume for related hotlines and crisis shelters shot up by 70% in the final months of 2020, once the strictest COVID regulations were lifted.
STATEWIDE HELPLINE: 1-800-572-SAFE
Advocates correctly predicted a lull in activity during COVID lockdowns, as victims wouldn't have excuses to leave the home or even the privacy to make a phone call for help.
January may bring spike in demand for domestic violence support
To go with record requests for help on nearly a weekly basis, Center for Hope & Safety is bracing for a spike in activity in January.
Victims of domestic violence tend to "buckle down through the holiday season," and then "become resolute" in the new year to make a change, Myner said. The stress of the holidays may actually increase the danger of the situation.
"I'm actually afraid to see what the spike will look like," Myner said.
Making that first call can be a very difficult decision for a victim to make, she said.
"It is an equation that considers multiple factors, and it takes a lot of courage," Myner said. "Sometimes that call is postponed until it becomes very dire or dangerous."
But a victim can use the call just to explore their risk level, or to develop a safety plan, she said.
The agency has worked with survivors who had resided in an abusive home for decades, Myner said.