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COVID-19 isolation poses dangers to domestic violence survivors

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Domestic violence often happens in the dark, behind closed doors. As many families isolate during the COVID-19 outbreak, domestic violence advocates say this increases the risk of violence in these households.

"The situation can become even more volatile than they already are," says Jennifer Cacciapaglia who leads Rockford's Mayor's Office on Combating Domestic Violence.

Cacciapaglia says survivors may wind up trapped in prolonged close proximity to their abusers.

"Survivors who have to be quarantined with potentially their abuser and because of school closings with a child at the house," says Cacciapaglia.

Her message to those in this situations is clear: "Know without question the community will stay open to meet your needs."

According to Cacciapaglia, survivor's chances to safely reach out for resources may be limited when their abuser is with them 24/7.

"When you're with somebody who's already trying to monitor your every move and to not have an opportunity to break away from them when you are able to leave the house. This will exacerbate that difficulty."

This is why she's urging survivors to plan ahead.

"Survivors are exports on how to survive the situation they are in. Do what you have to do to get through. Find a way to reach out in an emergency. Call 911. First responders are here to respond, that is not going to stop."

For those who are not involved in those relationships, Cacciapaglia asks they reach out friends and family who may be.

"They need to start thinking about who the safe people are in their lives and what their signals can be, what their messages can be. Make sure you're checking in with someone or someone is checking in with you. Have that signal set up so that if you can't call your safe person on outside of the home is someone who can call."

Remedies Renewing Lives says it's canceling domestic violence small group meetings for the time being however its shelter is remaining open. You can call the Remedies Renewing Lives 24 hour hotline at 815-962-6102. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also manned 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233. If you are unable to speak safely you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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