Cold stretch could lead to isolation and worsening situations for those experiencing domestic violence- here’s who can help in Dane County

MADISON, Wis. – February’s prolonged stretch of intensely cold temperatures could lead to worsening situations for those experiencing domestic violence, advocates say.

While DAIS Executive Director Shannon Barry says calls for service come during the summer months, staff there believes that’s likely due to many waiting until children are out of school to pull them out of the home. While calls during the winter usually trend lower, Barry said that doesn’t mean situations are necessarily better.

We’re in the middle of a very brutal winter and that’s creating some additional stresses,” Barry said. “So it’s really increasing isolation for families. During the summer months, people may have been able to get out and walk with their friends and family, have those social connections. Now we’re in this really dark period of the year where people are stuck at home because of the winter weather, because of the pandemic, and are really seeing that social strain. They don’t have those supports.”

It’s not just the cold, Barry said. Rather, it’s a mixture of the weather, stress associated from students and parents both operating from home, as well as economic uncertainties tied to the pandemic.

One of the things that the pandemic has highlighted for us and the community as a whole is that not everyone is safer at home,” Barry said.  “People are dealing with multiple stressers. They may be sheltering at home with an abusive person. The might have kids at home doing school and virtual schooling. They might be dealing with their own economic strain and job loss, and we know that during times of economic stress, that we tend to see increasing rates of family violence.”

At Unidos, Executive Director Veronic Figueroa Velez said some experiencing domestic violence worry about what their options for shelter could be if they leave.

People go to moments where the isolation causes depression and they don’t have the ability to move forward,” she said.
They feel trapped. It’s the
hopelessness that comes with not being able to have a system of support.”

Both Barry and Figueroa Velez stress they have staff on hand to help those experiencing a domestic violence situation.

We’re here, you can call us, you can talk to us, we can figure something out together,” Figueroa Velez said.  “You don’t have to sleep outside in the street, you don’t have to be out in the zero or 20 below weather. That’s not an option. That’s not a choice for you or your children. Please call. If you feel there’s no choice for you, I want you to know that we’re here.”

If you or someone you know is involved in a situation of domestic violence, resources are available. The DAIS Help Line provides crisis intervention, safety planning, support, information, and referrals to survivors of domestic abuse, their families, friends, other service providers, and the general public. The Help Line is the gateway to all other DAIS services. The Help Line is answered by trained volunteers and staff and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Help Line can be reached at 608-251-4445 or 800-747-4045 (toll free in Dane County). Or, both Spanish and English speaking volunteers are ready to help at UNIDOS LA RED 24/7 Help Line: 1-800-510-9195.