LESTER, WV (WVNS) — The number of reported cases of domestic violence and sexual assault increased as pandemic restrictions were lifted.
The Women’s Resource Center serves four counties in Southern West Virginia including Fayette, Raleigh, Summers, and Nicholas counties.
The pandemic changed things for the Center and for victims of domestic violence. Patricia Bailey is the Interim Director for the Women’s Resource Center. She said the shelter itself was still open, but outreach centers in all four counties were operating remotely.
“For the outreach offices life really changed because courthouses closed, law enforcement had to change all their protocols, hospitals…nobody could go in,” said Bailey.
The number of reported domestic violence cases increased after the stay at home order was lifted.
“When the stay at home order was lifted and people were allowed to go back to work. That was when we would see the spike because now they were able,” said Bailey. “They didn’t have somebody there 24 hours a day monitoring, they could call for help and that is what happened.”
Bailey said there are key signs members of the community can look out for if they think someone they know might be in an abusive situation. Outside of physical signs of abuse, like visible bruises, broken bones, and black eyes, people can be on the lookout for certain changes in behaviors.
“One of the key elements of domestic violence is isolation. What better way to keep somebody right there with you, so you know what they’re doing every minute of every day,” said Bailey.
The Women’s Resource Center sees an average of 2,500 women a year, but the majority of them will never go through a formal investigation.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault are the only crimes where the victim is blamed for what happened, it’s not going to be that way for any other crime,” said Bailey.
Bailey said the best thing to do if you or someone you know might be experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault is to call the WRC 24-hour hotline at 304-255-2559.