The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has created “entrapment on top of entrapment” for domestic-violence victims, said Paula Roller, executive director of Turning Point
In normal times, Roller said, it’s difficult for victims of domestic violence to leave the abusive situations in their homes.
Ohio’s stay-at-home order – issued to limit the spread of coronavirus – has created “another level that makes it more difficult” for those people to seek help, she said.
“Our clients are trapped. That’s part of domestic violence,” she said.
For those who do flee abusive situations, one refuge is Turning Point’s shelter at 500 N. Liberty St.
The nonprofit organization that aids victims of domestic violence opened its Delaware shelter last year after a lengthy fundraising campaign.
Turning Point, which provides services in Delaware and five other counties, also operates a shelter in Marion and has a 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-232-6505 or 740-382-8988.
Residents also may text Turning Point at 20121 by using keywords turning point, turningpoint, tphelp or turning.
Turning Point personnel recently exchanged texts with a woman who was eager for her husband to return to work so she could try to make an escape, Roller said.
The pandemic has brought with it a decline in the number of domestic-violence victims making crisis calls and requests for admission to Turning Point’s shelters, she said.
She said she has talked to Delaware police Chief Bruce Pijanowski, who told Delaware City Council on April 13 the department’s reports of all types had decreased during the pandemic.
Police Capt. Adam Moore said 41 domestic-violence reports were received from March 24 to April 11, down from 54 during the same period last year.
Domestic-violence reports also are down in Marion, Roller said.
Tracy Whited, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office’s community- and media-relations manager, said deputies in March saw an increase in domestic-incident reports, which includes both domestic violence and incidents that don’t escalate into violence.
Roller said coronavirus could spread quickly in close quarters such as Turning Point’s shelters, which take in domestic-violence victims and their children.
“My whole thing is to limit the footprint for exposure” in the shelters, she said.
An advantage at the Delaware shelter is its three apartments, each with a television, she said. The apartments are well-stocked and don’t require a family to enter the shelter’s other living and sleeping areas.
The plan is to quarantine an arriving family in an apartment for two weeks before they are put in the shared area with other clients, she said.
“We’ve been very proactive in limiting our admissions. ... We screen people to see if there are other ways we can help,” Roller said.
Most of the Turning Point staff is working from home and each shelter has been limited to about 10 people, she said.
Those staying at the shelter can go their jobs if they have one, but otherwise the residents don’t go to stores and can’t have visitors, she said.
“We’re trying to limit exposure in every way we can,” Roller said.
Everyone at the shelters is wearing a mask, and temperatures are taken twice daily, she said.
“We disinfect everything that doesn’t move. If you stand still too long, you might get disinfected,” she joked.
The shelters aren’t taking in small children now, because “you can’t keep a mask on a 2-year-old,” Roller said.
The Delaware shelter maintains social distancing and works to stagger meal times so not all residents are in the kitchen or dining room at once, she said.
Turning Point hopes to add TVs and Wi-Fi in all rooms at the Marion shelter to increase flexibility there, she said.
Turning Point also is preparing for an influx of domestic-violence victims when the stay-at-home order is lifted but social distancing is still recommended, Roller said.
“We’re trying to formulate what it will look like when we get more families,” she said. “We’re putting all of our best thoughts together.”
Turning Point has aided both women and men who are victims of domestic violence, Roller said. Legal help and counseling are available to shelter residents.
She said Turning Point’s shelters are one layer in aiding domestic-violence victims.
“You can’t make changes if you don’t have options,” she said. “We offer options.
“Now, their options are more limited than ever.”
For a domestic-violence victim, “Making the first reaching-out initial phone call that starts the ball rolling is very difficult to do – even dangerous,” Roller said.
The criminal-justice system doesn’t always protect domestic-violence victims, she said. Many domestic-violence charges are pleaded down to assault charges, she said, and a number of standards must be met before a protection order is granted.
It’s easy for people to ask why victims don’t just leave, but that’s a misdirected question, Roller said.
“That puts the onus on the victim. They did nothing wrong,” she said.
The real question is why the abuser doesn’t stop, she said.
The abuser “needs to quit. Hold him accountable. We’ve got it all backwards,” Roller said.
In particular, she said, it’s important that responsible men understand the dynamics and implications of domestic violence.
“We need men leading this charge, too,” she said. “It would be very helpful.”
For more information, go to turningpoint6.org.