Abuse to likely spike during pandemic, experts say

MADISON, Wis. — While many establishments are shutting down in Wisconsin Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Madison is staying open for clients.

DAIS executive director Shannon Barry tells News 3 Now that she is expecting to see a surge in demand for surfaces as the pandemic progresses. In fact, the call center is already seeing an increase in calls.

Barry tells News 3 Now that when times get tough abuse typically spikes. For example, DAIS saw a 108% increase in calls for service in a one year span during the recession in 2008. Due to the coronavirus pandemic families are not only feeling financially stressed but they are also forced to stay in close quarters, which make matters worse.

“When you add on the fact that we are dealing with people who are being told to stay home, not being able to go to work, not being able to send their kids to school — that can just create a pressure cooker for families,” Barry said. “The strain of all being together all the time increases the risk of domestic violence and victims are not able to find privacy or take steps they may have normally taken in order to find safety and exit the situation.”

Barry said DAIS’s shelter will remain open. Families will be spaced further apart to prevent the spread of the virus. However, she said some shelters in the state will be forced to shut down.

“Some of the smaller programs are really strapped and they may only have like six employees and if those folks get sick and are not able to report to work then that may create burdens for programs,” Barry said. “I also suspect we are going to see rural populations in Wisconsin probably hit pretty hard by this because there are already a lot of service gaps that we don’t see here in Madison or Milwaukee.”

Local law enforcement and the National Domestic Violence Hotline are options for people who don’t have access to a local shelter. If you or a loved one needs help there are resources available. You can call the DAIS help line at 608-251-1237 or you can call or text the National Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-7233.

Barry tells News 3 Now that people can help the situation by checking in with their friends and loved ones via phone or text. You might also consider donating to DAIS. DAIS lost more than $200,000 worth of funding when the United Way of Dane County cut its funding from DAIS. DAIS was planning on raising new funds during a spring fundraiser; however that was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.