During isolation, Seattle police see increased domestic violence reports
The Seattle Police Department says reports of domestic violence are up since Washington’s "stay at home" order took effect. They say help for victims may look different right now, but it's still available.
Domestic violence reports to Seattle police increased 21% in the last month. Normally the department has trained volunteers who go talk to victims in person. But the coronavirus has put those visits on hold.
“We are getting really creative with how we are providing services,” said Dana Lockhart, head of SPD’s victim support team. Volunteers aren’t involved right now, she added. But staff advocates are making contact with victims by phone.
“We’ve called officers. We’ve had three-way calls with victims. We’ve put what we call 'auxiliary kits' at every single one of the precincts,” Lockhart said. “The boxes include emergency cell phones, gift cards, diapers, baby needs, those kinds of tangible resources that people need in real time.”
For now, it’s the police officers who distribute them. Lockhart said her group continues to refer people to nonprofit partners, which are still up and running. “My program is just a bridge,” she said.
Those service providers might help victims relocate for now by paying for transportation and a hotel room. But during this time of isolation, Lockhart said the biggest thing friends and neighbors can do is call and check on someone they’re concerned about.
Emergency texting to 911 is available in King and Snohomish Counties for people who can't safely place a voice call. In King County, that option has been offered for a little more than a year.
Lockhart said 911 King County dispatchers received 150 emergency contacts by text in March 2020, the highest total in the past five months. In February, there were 91 emergencies texted to 911.
"That jump from February to March is almost chilling," Lockhart said.
Since the "stay at home" restrictions took effect, the King County Prosecutor's Office also unveiled electronic filing for domestic violence protection orders.
Anyone affected by abuse and needing support can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1−800−799−7233. There’s also help available by text at “thehotline.org.”