FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Across our area, as coronavirus cases continue to rise, every county has also seen an increase in domestic violence.
“The coronavirus is not making people commit domestic violence,” said Tom Bakkedahl, Chief Assistant State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit. “My guess is, it has exposed what has already been transpiring in our community behind closed doors."
Need help getting out of a violent relationship? Call Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (Palm Beach County) at 1 (800) 355-8547 or SafeSapce (Treasure Coast counties) at 1 (800) 500-1119.
Bakkedahl’s circuit includes Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
“I’m almost willing to bet my life on the fact that the men who have been arrested for domestic violence during this period of time have been engaging in that type of conduct for a significant period of time,” Bakkedahl told Contact 5 investigator Merris Badcock.
Between March 6 and April 6, compared to the same time frame last year, domestic battery cases have increased 18 percent in Palm Beach County
In the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee counties, domestic violence cases have increased a whopping 79 percent during that same time frame.
“That could be any number of [domestic violence] cases,” Bakkedahl explained. “It does not necessarily have to be an act of physical violence. It could be stalking [for example].”
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder has also noticed an increase.
“We are seeing this kind of noxious mixture of excessive alcohol use, coupled with people staying home under conditions they are not used to,” Snyder explained. “It has resulted in a marked increase in domestic violence calls.”
While cases everywhere are going up, officials at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse in Palm Beach County, otherwise known as AVDA, say their hotline calls have more or less stayed the same.
“We are concerned that the reason [hotline calls] are not going up is because by being in the home with their perpetrator 24/7, [victims] are not necessarily able to access a way to call us. If they are being monitored at all times, then they may be having trouble getting a second away to reach out for help,” said Jennifer Rey, Program Services Director of AVDA.
In a time when we are supposed to be looking out for one another, Rey is encouraging folks to reach out to law enforcement if they see something or hear something concerning.
“You may hear domestic violence taking place and know that that person may not have access to call 911,” Rey explained. “If you know that something is going on or you suspect it please fall law enforcement and have them investigate.”