INDIANAPOLIS — Domestic violence cases in Indiana have dramatically increased during the pandemic, according to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
They tell WRTV the number of domestic violence-related homicides has also spiked during the pandemic.
“It is painful. It is very hard,” said Caryn Burton, training director with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Our homicides, particularly during the pandemic, have spiked 113%.”
According to ICADV, there have been at least 82 domestic violence homicides since June 1, 2020. Before the pandemic, the state average was around 55 per year. Burton says there are likely even more cases that have not been reported.
“When the stay at home orders were issued that was probably on one hand for the pandemic a great option, but for survivors, it probably was the worst thing because what we did was force him to stay home with their abusers,” said Jami Schnurpel, director of programs and survivor services at The Julian Center.
The Julian Center works to provide shelter, housing, food, financial and other resources to those leaving a domestic violence situation. Schnurpel said they’ve had to adjust how they do things a bit due to the pandemic, but they’ve still been able to provide assistance to those in need.
She said there could be several reasons why domestic violence cases have increased during the pandemic. They think the lack of socialization, the stress of staying at home and unemployment or underemployment could be contributing factors.
“It creates this recipe for disaster and it increases the stress that is put on any individual,” Schnurpel said.
The presence of guns in a home where domestic violence is happening can increase the risk of that violence turning into a homicide.
“Taking guns and firearms out of the hands of individuals who already have issues with violence, who have already shown that they will harm the people close to them is a critical thing,” Burton said. “We know that the presence of a gun in a home where there is domestic violence increases the risk of a homicide in that situation about tenfold.”
An Indiana lawmaker introduced a bill for the second time in 2021 that would require those convicted of domestic violence to surrender their weapons. That bill did not get a hearing. Representative Vernon Smith said he plans to introduce it again next year.
Lastly, a lack of awareness about resources available for those experiencing domestic violence could also play a role.
“Survivors believed that our shelters closed, other advocacy programs closed during the pandemic,” Burton said. “It is really a situation that people just absolutely felt trapped and felt like they couldn't get out.”
One survivor, who asked not to be identified, said she left her abuser before the pandemic began and even then, she worried about there not being enough resources to help her, but she says that was not the case.
Once she decided to leave, she connected with the Julian Center and got everything she needed to create a safer life for herself and her children. She said when she started making calls she realized many domestic violence shelters and advocacy programs work together and if one can’t help you, they will direct you to someone else who can.
Resources like shelter, food and financial assistance are all available to those in need.
If you need help you can call the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s 24-hour statewide hotline at 1-800-332-7385. You can learn more about the ICADV here or The Julian Center by clicking here.