Hubbard House: Isolation, fear can create ‘perfect storm’ for domestic abuse

Coronavirus pandemic: Help for domestic violence victims

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Anyone who needs help and can safely get away from their abuser is asked to call the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or Hubbard House in Jacksonville at (904) 354-3114.

Isolation and fear during the coronavirus pandemic can create the perfect storm for domestic or child abuse.

“They are prisoners in their own home and aren’t often able to get out and get that information,” Dr. Gail Patin said. “It’s very alarming.”

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As more people are being urged to stay home to protect themselves against COVID-19, local experts say it’s a critical time for victims of domestic violence or child abuse.

Patin is the CEO of Hubbard House. The full-service domestic violence center serves Duval and Baker counties. Since the start of the coronavirus quarantine, Patin said they have noticed a sharp decline in calls through their emergency hotline, which indicates trouble.

“What is very alarming is we’ve seen a 21% drop in calls from last month since the quarantine started,” Patin said. “What this tells us is what we’ve been worried about, that people are not able to get to their phones and call safely.”

Before the pandemic, victims had more opportunity to escape an abuser through work or school. Now, she said, some are trapped in the home with their abuser and unable to reach out for help.

“We’re talking about a horrible situation where people who normally might be able to call us and reach out to us or stop at our outreach center or go to work and look online to find how they can get help, that they are prisoners in their own home,” Patin said.

Hubbard House has a 24/7 hotline: 904-354-3114. It said its shelters are still open if needed. It has reduced staff with outreach to protect their health, but employees are still able to connect survivors with resources when necessary.

The CEO of LSF Health Systems, Dr. Christine Cauffield, said the community can do their part by checking in with family, friends and neighbors. Often times, the victim may not be able to safely get away from an abuser and call for help.

“What we know about domestic violence perpetrators, it’s all about power and control,’’ Cauffield said. “When the pressures of the stressors escalate for these individuals, they have a lot of problems managing those stressors and tend to strike out physically, emotionally, sexually as a means of power and control.”

One out of three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. Cauffield said her office has already seen an increase in domestic violence and in child and drug abuse.

“If you have suspicion that one of your neighbors, a friend, a loved one are suffering from domestic violence, you need to speak out, you need to reach out. You need to open your home to this victim and her children,” she said.

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