When home isn’t safe

JACKSON, Wyo. — Jackson town councilors implemented an emergency “stay-at-home” order this past Saturday mandating Jackson residents stay home except to perform “essential” activities.

But for some, “staying home” isn’t always the safe option. For victims of domestic violence, crisis situations coupled with intense isolation can be even more dangerous.

“Being in those smaller spaces when you’re living with an abusive partner, plus the intensity of a stressful situation… all that stuff gets intensified,” said Andy Cavallaro, executive director of Community Safety Network.

And indeed, around the world, domestic violence cases are spiking amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before stay-at-home was officially an order, when most of Jackson had begun to voluntarily self-isolate and businesses began to close their doors, Cavallaro said CSN was feeling “an increase in crisis situations — or at least not a decrease.”

Jackson Police Department Lieutenant Roger Schultz said so far the numbers don’t actually point to a local spike in domestic violence, from where he sits. As of Friday, March 27, JPD had responded to two domestic violence-related calls. That’s up 50% from the same time last year — JPD only got one DV-related call last March — but “it’s only one,” Schultz said.

Things could still change. Schultz said we probably won’t know the real impact of social isolation on domestic violence for “another month or so.” And a lack of calls to the police does not necessarily mean violence is not occurring — just that it’s not being reported.

So what can you do if staying home feels unsafe?

The “stay-at-home” order does not actually require residents to stay home under all circumstances. You’re still allowed to grocery shop, go outside, recreate. It might take some creativity, but Cavallaro says the “biggest thing I recommend is to really try to avoid that isolation.” Go on a walk. Reach out to a friend, or a sibling, or CSN’s helpline.

Jackson Police Department is working as usual, but to protect current inmates and detention staff, is trying even harder to avoid arresting people.

“Once [COVID-19] gets into that facility it’ll run rampant,” Schultz said.

Police will still arrest people who pose a “public safety” concern, and domestic violence could certainly be one such instance. “We will always make an arrest when it’s practical,” Schultz said. But “in general, across all types of calls, our preference is citation over arrest.”

Community Safety Network has not, and will never (resources permitted) stop doing what it does best — providing shelter, safety, and resources for people affected by partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking.

“We are fully committed to meeting these needs under our emergency operations plan and precautionary COVID-19 protocols for the safety of our clients, staff, and community,” CSN said in a press release.

Other resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.

Office on Women’s Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662
A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.

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