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A Way Out: Victims of domestic violence need support

Though it has flown under the radar a bit this year, October is domestic violence awareness month.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 33.6 percent of West Virginia women and 41.2 percent of West Virginia men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes; 1/3 of homicides in West Virginia are related to domestic violence; a call is placed to a West Virginia domestic violence hotline every 9 minutes.

Here in Wood County, one of those hotlines is provided through the Family Crisis Intervention Center: 1-800-794-2335 or 304-428-2333.

It would not be a surprise to find out the numbers in the 2021 reports have increased after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virus has had many effects on health and safety. Among them are increased tension due to job losses and restrictions on activities. As experts have noted, the epidemic has resulted in some victims of abuse being trapped by their assailants. By that, we mean that some domestic violence victims must survive round-the-clock presence of abusers who otherwise might be gone for lengthy periods (or from whom they have a good way to escape) because of work.

One domestic violence center noted a 50 percent decrease in calls for help during the epidemic — because abusers were with victims who otherwise might appeal for aid. Many web sites for agencies that provide a lifeline for domestic violence victims now come with warnings that internet histories can be searched, and point out quick-exit buttons for leaving the site “safely” if one is caught.

Evidence of increased domestic violence is trickling in. One Massachusetts hospital reported that this spring, it treated five victims of serious abuse injuries, compared to a total of three during the past three spring seasons.

It is likely domestic abuse has increased in our area, too.

If you believe someone you know is being abused, help him or her, but be careful. Your safety may be at risk. And an abuser’s knowledge his victim is seeking help may put her or him at greater risk.

What can we do, then? Start by calling organizations such as the Family Crisis Intervention Center. Sadly, they’ve got plenty of experience in how to help.

Victims of domestic violence often feel alone and helpless. They should not. If you know one, make her or him understand there is a way out.

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