Coronavirus impacts domestic violence and child abuse

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SHERMAN, Tex. (KXII) The virus outbreak means different things for different people. For most of us it means spending more time at home and away from the threat of catching the coronavirus in public. But some are up against a different kind of threat at home.

The Grayson County Crisis Center and the Children's Advocacy Center agree that for most victims of domestic violence, losing that freedom to leave the house to the pandemic, gives abusers more opportunity. For victims of child abuse those risks are even greater as schools stay shuttered, leaving them with nowhere to go.

"The most dangerous place for victims of domestic violence is going to usually be at home. So, what a scary message for all of us to try to process through especially those who are victims of domestic violence in their home," said Crisis Center Executive Director, Shelli Shields.

The Grayson County Crisis Center says pandemic fear, emotional stress, and financial strain can impact domestic situations.

"Anytime an abuser begins to feel the power shift away from that individual, they have the tendency to want to regain that power. And so that power then becomes more of a physical or mental attack on the victim," said Shields.

That stress can create a new violent domestic situation, or escalate an existing one.

"The intensity behind some of the domestic violence that our victims are experiencing are probably going to be increased due to all the other stressors that everyone's trying to figure out with COVID," said Shields.

This applies to all genders, ages and communities.

"When you take high stress situations and you put families in a confined space, we see a drastic uptick in child abuse cases," said Abigail Hill, Development and Outreach Coordinator for the Children's Advocacy Center.

The Children's Advocacy Center says they also anticipate more cases with kids home from school.

"Teachers are our core reporters in Texas and that's where kids feel safe is at school. Well they're not at school, so our reporters aren't getting to talk to these kids. So we need everyone to learn what to look for and to make reports," said Hill.

But an important reminder: it can happen to anyone.

"They happen and they happen in good families too. This isn't a problem that child abuse doesn't only exist in poor communities, it doesn't exist in only certain racial groups, it doesn't only exist with families that drink, it happens across the board, it crosses all boundaries," said Hill.

Sherman and Denison police say whether you're a victim seeking safety, a parent at their wit's end, or a concerned neighbor, reaching out to the Crisis Center or the CAC before things escalate to violence is the best way to prevent it from happening so law enforcement doesn't ever have to get involved. But they say they are always ready to intervene if it's needed.

The Grayson County Crisis Center hotline is available 24/7 at 903-893-5615.

The Grayson County Children's Advocacy Center office number is 903-957-0440. The Texas State Abuse hotline is 1-800-252-5400.

Their websites provide information about services and resources meant to raise awareness and prevent violence in the community.