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Advocates fear more time at home could lead to an increase in domestic violence

Ellen Abbott

As more and more people are forced to stay home and in close quarters because of the coronavirus, officials at Vera House in Syracuse are worried about an uptick in domestic violence.

Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman said she wouldn't be surprised.

"I believe there will be more abuse in the homes," said Bregman. "And I believe people who are hurt will be in more challenging situations and may take more risks depending on how they are trapped in their homes like this."

The Vera House office is down to a skeleton staff, with most of the staff working remotely, in a job that often requires face-to-face intervention.

"I feel like my heart is torn in two trying to navigate this path," Bregman said. "Because we are concerned that people we don’t serve the way that we did, could be hurt at home, because now people are trapped in their homes, sometimes unsafe, non respectful loving homes."

Bregman said sexual assault calls that used to be handled directly will be handled over the phone. Advocates won’t visit victims in hospitals, and a diminished court system makes getting emergency orders of protection more challenging. 

The emergency shelter is still open, and a 24-hour support line is still operating. One request Bregman does have from the community are donations of hospital masks, disinfectants and other items for their emergency shelters.

"We’re really concerned about our staff and residents not having some of those things, that you would consider part of your emergency plan, but no-one could anticipate you can’t buy them," she said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.