Domestic violence deaths up 86% in Indiana, local organization says

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INDIANAPOLIS — Domestic violence calls and domestic violence deaths in Indiana are on the rise, and advocates say the increase is directly related to COVID-19.

In a span of less than eight hours on July 27, two people were shot and killed in Carmel and another person was shot and killed on Indy’s west side during domestic incidents.

These are just three of at least eight domestic violence deaths in central Indiana last month, as cases become more violent and more frequent.

“It’s incredibly concerning,” said Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We’ve seen an 86% increase in domestic violence related death, and we can clearly contribute this to COVID.”

The virus has increased social isolation, unemployment and alcohol consumption. Berry says those are all contributing factors that can lead to domestic violence.

“All of those have kind of created this perfect storm for us in the past three months,” Berry said

In the first month of shutdowns, 911 in Marion County had a 46% rise in domestic calls. As of June 30, domestic violence cases for IMPD were up 16% compared to 2019. Organizations like the Julian Center are also seeing an increase in both the number and severity of calls.

“We’re seeing more weaponry used,” said Jami Schnurpel, director of programs and survivor services at the Julian Center. “We’re seeing as I mentioned, a higher level of violence. We’re seeing more strangulation than we have in the past.”

With their shelter at capacity, other organizations like Families First have helped house people in hotels.

Many of the survivors they help say living in close quarters has caused more issues, speeding along the cycles of conflict.

“We don’t have as much of a honeymoon phase anymore because we’re right in each others face,” said Maggie Milestone, a domestic violence councilor and trauma therapist with Families First.

“That’s one thing I’ve heard from people is that they’re having a lot more big blowups than before.”

Advocates say it can be hard to pick up on warning signs for others when being socially distant, and it can be hard for those stuck at home to get away from their abuser. However, making first contact is a difficult but important first step towards safety.

“If you feel like there’s someone in your family, a friend or a neighbor who needs help, encourage them to reach out,” Schnurpel said.

“We’re really gonna have to take some aggressive action and reach out survivors and let them know resources are available and that we’re open for services,” Berry said.

If you or a loved one are in need of assistance, you can contact the 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-332-7385.

If it’s an emergency, dial 911.

You can also contact the Julian Center at 317-920-9320. That number is also available 24/7.

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