As the pandemic hit Minnesota and the state was ordered to stay at home, those who work to provide services to survivors of domestic violence were concerned there would be a decrease in calls despite their services still being available.
Four months later, as Minnesotans mask up, providers are saying it's inconclusive how the pandemic has affected their work.
"We didn't see COVID significantly increase our numbers, but we also didn't see it significantly decrease our numbers," said Tori Miller, executive director of Crime Victims Resource Center in Austin. "I would say it's pretty much been business as usual."
Comparing April-June 2019 to the same time frame this year, Miller said the center saw an 8% increase in the number of people calling and a 24% increase in services that are provided.
It's hard to say, though, if the increase means there are more people facing domestic violence, or if more people are ready to come forward and seek help.
"Domestic violence is very prevalent within our communities. I think when people come forward, it's a matter of when they have the strength and courage to do so," Miller said. "I've been here for nearly 24 years, and some people come forward immediately within an abusive relationship. I've had other clients that have been with an abuser for 30 years before they come forward."
Data from the statewide Day One hotline was inconclusive whether the pandemic has had an impact on the increase in calls for service from survivors of domestic abuse, comparing March through June of 2019 to the same time frame this year, according to Joe Shannon, data and communications program manager for Violence Free Minnesota.
"Some weeks have seen an increase in calls compared to 2019, while others have seen a decrease. Some weeks have a large increase/decrease, and others have a minimal one," Shannon wrote in an email to the Post Bulletin. "At this point, the statewide hotline call numbers are not enough to show us any sort of trend or pattern for the COVID lockdown."
But call numbers don't tell the whole story of domestic violence in the state. There are many reasons why someone in an abusive relationship may not call for help or report incidents to police.
Someone may not have an opportunity to report their abuse or feel safe doing so; because of threats from their abuser, that could make things worse. Others who may have been in a position to notice abuse and report it likely haven't had the opportunity, with schools conducting classes virtually and doctor's appointments being postponed.
Artyce Thomas, executive director of the Women's Shelter and Support Center, said that throughout the pandemic, the organization has continued to provide services, but with modifications to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
"We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said.
Who to call
- The Women’s Shelter and Support Center in Rochester 24-hour crisis line: 507-285-1010
- Minnesota Day One Crisis Line: 1-866-223-1111 by phone, or 612-399-9995 by text
- Crime Victims Resource Center in Austin 24/7 line: 507-437-6680