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Domestic Violence Shelters Wait For The Storm


Illinois domestic violence shelters have not received as many calls in recent days perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s likely to change.

There’s more time for people to be together, creating the opportunity for volatile tempers to fly. But there are also fewer opportunities for victims to reach out for help, said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“What we think that is about is of course people being stuck at home, and that very soon, maybe even before the stay at home is lifted, we will begin to get increased calls for service from homes where domestic violence is occurring” she said.

Smith said violence prevention services are still available, but perhaps in a slightly different form, such as housing for those fleeing from abusers in hotels rather than tight quarters in shelters. Illinois’ domestic violence shelters have had to find new ways of functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shelters have had to make adjustments in terms of housing, counseling and dealing with the justice system,  Smith said.

The shelters might normally be able to fit two families to a room, which doesn’t allow for social distancing. They have looked to alternatives such as putting families up in hotels.

“We know this is a particularly stressful time for individual who experience domestic violence. This staying at home, this isolation is a tool abusers often use. So we just want to make sure everybody knows we’re still here,” she said.

In one case, advocates for a domestic violence victim were able to link that client to a judge by phone who was able then to put an order of protection in place.

The number for the domestic violence hotline is 877-863-6338.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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