Nearly three weeks into a pseudo-quarantine because of COVID-19, many are either out of work, on abbreviated work schedules, or are working from home to help curb the spread of the virus that has upended lives.

Nearly three weeks into a pseudo-quarantine because of COVID-19,  many are either out of work, on abbreviated work schedules, or are working from home to help curb the spread of the virus that has upended lives.

Many are feeling the stress.

And the kids are home from school for at least another month. 

Those factors have raised the concern of Lake-area domestic and child abuse officials as they brace for potential problems.

“We’re headed into week three now, and we’re not getting more calls than we typically have, but we anticipate more,” Citizens Against Domestic Violence Director Sheree Keely said earlier this week. “The assumption is that as this goes on we will have an increase in calls to our hotline.  Unfortunately, this public health crisis encourages isolation to stop the spread of the virus, and in domestic violence, isolation is the worst situation for the victim.” 

Keely said she and her staff and volunteers are working with clients in the community and helping them with safety plans, encouraging them to stay safe and to talk through things to help develop a safety plan for their families.

CADV is a non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention, shelter, advocacy, and support to victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

Keely said she encourages individuals who might be or might become victims of abuse to reach out and talk to people.

“When we’re stressed we don’t think as clearly,” she offered. “We want to make sure people are reaching out and that they are not alone. And there’s always our hotline that’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

A challenge that CADV faces is managing safety aspects of the virus and the safety needs of victims of violence.  

“We are working to maintain healthy strategies in our shelter as well as support victims who need shelter services. In keeping with the guidelines for safe health practices, we have limited admissions into the program. This is reducing the number of available beds.  However, we are working closely with the health department, Lake Regional Hospital and Central Ozark Medical Center to find safe ways to bring victims and their families into shelter.  

“We have 28 beds, but because of the recommendations intended to slow the spread of the virus, we have to carefully and thoughtfully integrate new clients into our shelter program for their safety and our current clients,” she said. “As soon as a room opens we begin planning to safely fill the bed.  

Keely urged anyone in a domestic violence situation not to be deterred by the health department recommendations and to contact the CADV hotline. Accommodations will be made.

“We have to do this safely, otherwise it makes things much more difficult,” she explained.

Child abuse concerns

Ironically, the number of referrals received at Kids’ Harbor for possible child abuse has actually decreased since schools have cancelled classes.

“We’re seeing dramatic decreases in the number of referrals that we see,” Kids’ Harbor Director Cara Gerdiman said. “That follows what we’re seeing around the state as well.”
She pointed to comments made recently by Sara Smith, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children's Division. 

"It's going to take us all to make sure these kids are safe," Smith told a statewide media outlet.

The state has seen about a 50 percent drop in calls – from about 650 a day -- to the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect hotline.

“I worry and I worry that with the stress levels and uncertainty of the current times that there are instances of abuse that are not being reported,” Gerdiman said. “Breadwinners are being laid off and that concerns me.”

About 60 percent of calls to Kids’ Harbor come from schools, which are mandatory reporters of child abuse, Gerdiman said. With churches cancelling Sunday services and other programs, abuses could go unnoticed and unreported as well, she added.

“We encourage families and neighbors to watch that neighborhood children are out and about. “If someone sees something of concern, call the hotline,” Gerdiman said. “You don’t have to have proof of abuse taking place. We only have to have suspicion of abuse. Let law enforcement do the investigation.”

She also urged the public to use down time and watch training on how to recognize abuse by visiting www.kidsharbormo.org.

What to do

CADV

Anyone in need of CADV services is urged to call the CADV Hotline at 888-809-SAFE (7233) or 888-809-7233. There are other resources available at the CADV website at www.cadv-voc.org, or on its Facebook page.

Kids’ Harbor

Anyone suspecting child abuse is urged to call the hotline at 800-392-3738, the Kids’ Harbor Facebook page; or visit the Missouri Department of Human Services webpage.