Advocates concerned about ‘scary’ increase in domestic violence calls

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 5:09 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Advocates who help people become survivors of domestic violence say they’re seeing a surge in need approaching ‘scary’ levels.

In the height of the pandemic, they told us they worried about seeing more violence once people started going back to work and things began returning to normal.

That’s exactly what’s happening, and it has them concerned.

“Our numbers have never been higher,” says Marissa Heim, grants and outreach manager at Golden House in Green Bay.

It’s alarming, yet promising, all at the same time.

“We’re actually seeing double or triple the number of our hotline calls coming in every day, so more people reaching out than they have ever before,” says Heim.

Golden House, a domestic violence shelter and resource center for women and men, is seeing a sharp increase in the number of people seeking help to get away from domestic violence.

The good news? They’re trying to get out and get help.

The bad news? There’s that much more violence in the first place.

Advocates don’t have the magic answer as to why, but COVID likely plays a big role.

“People come to our front door and need shelter, fleeing from their abuser because their abuser is at work and it’s their only time to get away,” says Heim.

And for the first time, Golden House is seeing a new group of people seldom seen seeking shelter.

“We’ve seen more men in the past few months use our services than we have in the past few years I’ve been here,” says Heim.

She says they’re still trying to decide what’s driving more men to seek help, but they welcome it.

It comes as the level of violence increases, causing another concern for advocates.

The number of DVO calls -- the ones so severe they require police intervention -- have steadily increased from 60 calls in April to 90 in June.

So far, 2021 is trending to far exceed last year’s calls, but it still doesn’t tell the full story.

“We know so many people have incidents that go unreported that still use our services,” she says.

While all kinds of abuse is being seen, Heim says financial abuse continues to affect more people, like in cases when an abuser may withhold money if a victim lost their job during COVID, but getting out right now can be extremely challenging.

“Even if they do want to leave, where are they going to go? Right now, trying to find a 1, 2, 3 bedroom apartment to leave your significant other and move yourself and your children, or even just yourself, it’s hard,” says Heim. “They have no place to actually physically go, because there’s no option right now in Green Bay.”

Golden House does now have a coordinator that works with landlords to lessen that burden and get people into housing faster.

Despite hardships, the organization’s core message remains the same, encouraging people to seek help, knowing there’s always someone willing to listen and offer help.

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