Domestic violence cases up during pandemic, shelters in Ohio say they’re open to help

Domestic violence cases up during pandemic, shelters in Ohio say they’re open to help

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The coronavirus pandemic is leading to spikes in domestic violence, and making it harder for some victims to find help.

19 Investigates found local shelters want you to know they are open, even as they balance virus health precautions with saving people's lives.

Lorain County residents are mourning the loss of an entire family to a murder-suicide.

On Wednesday, Elyria Police responded to a home on Willow Park Road for a well-being check.

They found the bodies of a man, a woman and three children, all with gunshot wounds.

“It’s heart wrenching, there’s no other word for that. Heart wrenching,” said Virginia Beckman, executive director of the Lorain County Safe Harbor Genesis House Shelter.

Beckman said this is the second domestic homicide they've seen during the pandemic.

“Increased isolation is an indicator of lethality. It makes the situation go from dangerous to potentially lethal,” she said.

Beckman runs a 22-bed, non-profit emergency shelter.

Their doors stayed open even during the lockdown, when some places shutdown.

“It’s been vitally important for us to remain open. Our hotlines are working, our shelter is open, we’re taking people in,” Beckman said.

The Genesis House Shelter hasn’t turned away anyone who needs help.

Many times, they've had to send up to 10 people off-site for safe housing, because of social distancing requirements.

And more victims need help than usual.

“People can call us at any time of day or night to get to safety,” Beckman said.

They're also trying to keep employees safe from the virus at the same time too.

One outreach staff member, who doesn't go into the shelter, currently has Covid-19.

Beckman said the stress of the pandemic-- from job losses, to health and family-work stress is making already dangerous situations for victims much worse.

“There’s so much shame and embarrassment and fear that survivors of domestic violence feel every single day, in every normal circumstance,” Beckman said.

“And then you factor in a pandemic, where people are not as likely to open their doors to help one another or haven’t been in close contact like they normally would be. Or aren’t seeing one another so they can’t see the bruises that are happening,” she said.

How you can help a loved one

If a family member or friend is struggling with domestic violence, Beckman said it’s important you talk to them.

You can start by telling him or her “you don’t deserve that.”

You can also say this--

“I’m afraid for your safety and the safety of your children and it will get worse. Domestic violence increases in frequency and severity over time,” she said.

And you can help them get to a safe place as soon as possible.

“We’re here and we’re waiting and we’re ready,” Beckman said.

Funding cut, donations needed

The Genesis House Shelter has extra costs during the pandemic.

And like a lot of social agencies, they have been hit with funding cuts, from state and federal grants they usually depend on.

They just got a state grant for nearly $56,000, but that's less than they usually get.

You can call the Genesis House Shelter at 440-323-3200 OR 440-244-1853 if you would like to donate.

You can also donate online here, on their Facebook page or mail them a check.

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