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Advocates Worry Domestic Abuse Will Go Under Reported During Pandemic

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from WFIU WTIU news along with co-host Sara Wittmeyer the WFIU WTIU news director. We're recording the show remotely today to avoid the risk of spreading infection from COVID 19. We're talking about advocates concerns that victims of domestic violence will have trouble getting help during the pandemic. We have three guests with us on the program. We have Debra Morrow who is the executive director of Middle Way House in, Bloomington. Zoe Peterson, associate research scientist at the Indiana University Kinsey Institute and associate professor of counseling and educational psychology at IU, and Melissa Stone, a social worker for the Bloomington Police Department. If you want to join us on the program today, you can do so but you have to do it by sending us an email or following us on Twitter? You can follow us on Twitter at noon edition. You can send your emails to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. Well thank you all for being here with us today. I know these are difficult times for everybody. But we've heard a lot about how it's particularly difficult for people who are in situations of domestic violence. I wanted to start with you Debra, Debra Morrow from Middle Way House. What are you seeing on the ground? How are things different for Middle Way and your clients? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Well, first off, thank you for having us on the show and discussing this important topic. What we're seeing is that there are still survivors reaching out right? At first during the shut down, it was very quiet. It was almost eerily quiet. Calls have picked back up. What we see is that there is a real fear of leaving right now, a fear of coming into a shelter type situation. People are trying their best to navigate the situation. And for a lot of individuals, it's become harder for them to reach out to us. So we've tried to implement things like a chat service so that somebody wouldn't have to call, so somebody can reach out that way. And we've also been able to do zoom meetings and stuff with individuals. My biggest fear are the individuals who are at home isolating with their abusers and are not able to reach out for help at all during this period of high stress. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Zoe Peterson can you talk a little bit more about this and how do people sort of navigate this difficult situation? Zoe. I don't know the... 

>>ZOE PETERSON: I'm having some internet challenges at home and at the worst possible time. So I truly apologize. So yes. Thank you for having me. And I'm happy to talk about this. I think Debra and Melissa are really on the frontlines but I can kind of speak to the research piece which is. That we know that in times of crisis the risk of domestic violence tends to increase. And it's really hard right now because what we're relying on is kind of what Debra told us which is this kind of anecdotal evidence like who's calling the shelters. In some places they're really seeing an increase in calls to shelters in the police whereas other places they're seeing a dramatic decrease. But I think we know from past research that it's really unlikely that rates are actually decreasing in the time of crisis. We know typically they do increase. And so trying to sort of understand what are things looking like right now for people who are trapped in these abusive relationships and what might be preventing them from reaching out. And I think it's often you know not being able to get away from their abuser to reach out for help or also being afraid to expose themselves to the virus if they do reach out. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I know that stress during these times has been increased for everybody. So it just adds to the problems in a case of domestic violence, I would think. 

>>ZOE PETERSON: Yes. That's right. So so we know when people are stressed when they have financial difficulties when they're not getting social support and emotional support, all of those things kind of tax their coping abilities and can put them at risk for violence. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And I would say everybody has had their share of internet issues. So Zoe, don't don't worry about that. Thank you. 

>>ZOE PETERSON: I do apologize. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: No problem. Melissa Stone, so you're a social worker with the Bloomington Police Department. I guess I'd like to ask you what you're seeing. Have you seen - gotten more calls fewer calls about domestic issues? 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah. Thanks for having me on this call as well. I'm so happy to be here. I don't have strict numbers right now. But what I can say is that I would have assumed that at first that I would have more referrals and calls about domestic violence. But I think we aren't seeing the obvious like huge increase that somebody might expect. And I think it touches on what Debra mentioned. We're not people aren't in the right places all the time right now to be able to reach out for help and to make those calls that maybe they could have done before or maybe a friend could have done if they notice the difference. But people aren't out and about seeing each other. So it's not been a huge increase from what we would typically have. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: How would you characterize just in general interactions you've had with the public during these times. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Oh goodness. I actually kind of echo what Debra said too. The first couple of weeks of this pandemic people were still kind of in a shock phase I would say and just unsure but just kind of riding along to see how things might go. But we are definitely quite a few weeks in at this point. And people are really starting to worry at extra levels. You know the anxiety that I hear from my people every day has just greatly increased. April ended up being the busiest month I have had in this job so far. And that's just people being really worried about the future and what that looks like. And with fall things starting to be cancelled, people are really wondering if this will ever end. And it's definitely taking a toll on people's mental health. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Melissa could you go a little bit deeper into that? So it was your busiest month on the job so far. What kinds of calls were you getting. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah. So I saw an increase in serious mental illness. So there are still services being provided where people at center stone but they're not the same as they usually are. And you know their day center's are not open anymore. And we have people who usually require a lot of touches and interactions with their case managers, their psychiatrist and things like that. And right now people aren't getting that to the same extent. So people are having trouble with medication management which is increasing symptoms. People are worried about making rent at an all time high. Right? So we have those types of things that people are worried about. And so serious mental illness has been a major one. I've also seen an increase in families who have teenagers usually who just are at home now. And teenagers are running away you know thinking, it's not a big deal. I don't need to stay home. My parents are just overwhelmed with working from home and taking care of kids at home. So it's a wide gamut of those types of things. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Before we get in much further Debra, Melissa can you all share a number that people should call if they are going through a abuse situation? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Absolutely if somebody is experiencing domestic violence they should definitely call our crisis line at 8 1 2 3 3 6 0 8 4 6. And if they're unable to make that call if they go to our website in the top corner there is a chat box that they can reach out to us by chat and text with us or just message us through that. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Awesome. I would definitely recommend reaching out to Middle Way House. One thing that I think people either don't know or forget about is that you can also text 9 1 1. So you don't have to make a call to 9 1 1 if you're in a dangerous situation. You can also text. And I think that's been super helpful for people at times. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Thank you. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: I also think it's important for people to know that Middle Way House is not going to tell them they have to leave. I think sometimes people believe that if they call us then that's the end and they'll have to leave a relationship. You know they can contact us and we can just safety plan with them and help them navigate the situation that they're in now in the safest way possible with no expectation on what they're going to do. We understand that this is a scary time. And while you know they may be there with an abuser who they see as their monster in their home, we understand that covered 19 is a monster out here that you also don't know you know what to do with it. And so sometimes navigating that familiar is a lot easier than navigating the unfamiliar to somebody in that situation. And so them wanting to stay in the relationship is not a reason to not reach out. We will still be there and support them. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Debra can you talk about just some of the additional challenges that being in this pandemic is posing in terms of how Middle Way House is able to help folks and how they're (unintelligible) I guess too? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: We've had to reduce our numbers and shelter a little bit especially in our rooms for singles so that we can make sure that there's enough space to social distance. Our support groups - that has been a challenge because of course people aren't coming and meeting. So we have been able to set some of those up in zoom. But that isn't always an option for some people. Some people who maybe still might be with their abuser who's coming to a support group, that might not be an option for them. Really working through individual spheres - while we all may comfortably put on a face mask to you know feel safer out in public, you know one of the things that I've recently found out is that an individual who maybe has had somebody put their hand over their face and hold it over their mouth, that face mask can be very triggering to them. So there's a lot of fear in individuals. Like Melissa was saying people, are generally afraid. And you know our residents that much more so. And when you think about a survivor who might still be with their abuser - and isolation is so often used in abusive relationships. And then you've got this pandemic that is telling you to be isolated, the abuser is given more tools. They can use the fear. You know you can't go anywhere because you're going to get sick and really isolating more from their families. And it just it becomes so overwhelming. I think it's - you know I'm amazed at our direct service staff every day how they navigate this with the clients. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I hope we'll give those phone numbers again two or three more times during the program. I think that's important. And if there's anybody out there that has a question or comment for us you can reach us at noon edition through Twitter. Or you can send us an email to the show at news at Indiana Public Media dot org. Wanted to ask Zoe Peterson to expand on some of those things that Debra was saying about the isolation and the triggering mechanisms of putting on a mask and things of that nature. I mean what would you say to her? Can you give any tips for people who might be in this situation to try to help them. 

>>ZOE PETERSON: Yeah. I mean I think that's something - it's really interesting. It's not something I had thought of is masks as a trigger. But I think that there's all kinds of things with with this pandemic that could trigger someone who has been in a truly abusive relationship, a relationship where you know there's there's both a lot of severe violence and also a lot of kind of controlling behavior because we are you know - we are in all of us kind of in some ways being controlled right now. We're being told not to leave the house, not to be in direct contact with with our friends and our family and our support systems. And often those are things that abusers do to their victims. And so for people who have a past history of that or especially for those that are currently in that situation this could be sort of a reliving of a lot of those experiences. So I think you know in terms of how to cope with that I think you know Debra has mentioned calling calling Middle Way which I think is a great idea but also to know that a lot of therapists in this community are doing remote therapy sessions and that if you're finding that you know you're experiencing kind of PTSD symptoms from past experiences then this can be a really good time to reach out to a therapist. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Melissa, you've seen a lot of the protests the social distancing orders and things like that where the police have to sort of get involved. Again here in Bloomington your relationship with the public I assume - we haven't seen or report anything like that. I guess most people are are trying to - are most people just following the rules and trying to kind of pay attention to those kind of things? 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah. I mean I think this is probably the same any in any other location that's had these types of stay at home orders. There are definitely pockets of people at times that maybe aren't practicing physical distancing. Every once in a while we get called in to the department to ask us to make know about or go out there and remind people of that. And you know at times we are going out just to remind people, hey, there is this stay at home order. There's six feet guidance you know things like that. But overall it seems like most people are trying to do the very best they can. So I would say that of course you're gonna have some. But most people are definitely doing the best that they can. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Debra I want to start with you on this question. And then Zoe and Melissa can join in as well. But I know that in the best of circumstances when someone in a domestic violence situation has children that can add layers of difficulty to it. How does that play itself out when you also have a pandemic on top of it? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: I think you know - and that's one of the things that really worries me because as people are told to isolate themselves and school is being done virtually and people are working virtually, I think the added - so many times survivors are in a situation of always trying to protect their children because we know that when there is domestic violence in their home there's a greater risk of child neglect and abuse too. And I think the navigating all of that all at once just can become overwhelming. And Melissa mentioned the families with the children and having the stress from that. I think you know kids are loud. Kids are busy. Kids are kids. And they're beautiful. But oftentimes abusers don't tolerate that well. And so then you have a survivor who's trying to maintain. Everything in a way that keeps them all safe. And I think that brings extra challenges. And there's always that wanting to protect your kids. And so coming into shelter can be a really scary thing if you're afraid that there's other people there who might be sick that might get your kids sick. There's just so many layers. And this is a situation that we've never navigated before. And you know there's so many unanswered questions. And while we can try to reassure and let them know how much we're keeping our shelter clean and the protocols we have in place you know we can't 100 percent guarantee everything is going to be OK. And that's so hard. It's so hard. You know we know. Honestly we're thinking that after this is over is when there's going to be a huge onset of survivors reaching out because we know that natural disasters have shown that you know the domestic violence increases. But you don't always find that out until after. And with no end in sight that really worries me because how long are people going to stay in these unhealthy relationships and in this abuse not reaching out for help. So - and I think kids add a whole new layer because you're not just worried about yourself. You're also trying to protect them not just from the abuse but also from the pandemic. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Maybe Zoe can add to this as well. But I wanted to follow up and just say that that was a really good point and one that I was going to ask about in a little bit. But it seems like you know people will do their best to stay in the relationship and then all of a sudden there's going to be something that makes them say I can't take this anymore, I can't do this anymore. In this case at some point some of the restrictions are going to be lifted. And that's going to be - I would think that would be a signal that, OK, now is my time that I need to get out. And so just what you said - I was wondering if that was true. And you said that it is that at some point they're going to be - your services are going to be even more needed because people are going to say, well, OK now's the time I need to get out of here. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Yeah that's what we're expecting. 

>>ZOE PETERSON: Yeah. I mean, I think I agree with everything Debra said. And I agree with that important point too that you know in cases where there's no major hurricanes or earthquakes we often don't know the extent to which the domestic violence has increased until after the crisis is passed and sometimes a while after the crisis is passed because people sort of don't have the resources or the opportunity to come forward. So yes. I would absolutely predict that. And I agree with everything that Debra said about this sort of role of children too. I think it complicates things and all kinds of ways. Sometimes there's co-occurring child abuse. But even if even if there's not the children are are often witnessing the domestic violence, the intimate partner violence which we know is sort of a major psychological trauma for children. And yet you know it's really hard to protect the kids from the abuser, protect the kids from witnessing that, protect the kids if you need to go to a shelter but you're worried about the virus. And so I think all of that just adds a lot of stress and pressure for victims who are stuck in that position. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Debra and Melissa, is the same infrastructure in place through the court system - which I know the courts have had to operate in a different way and the police department to provide the kind of support that's necessary if someone does come forward. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: We at Middle Way House are still able to help individuals with their protective orders and get them filed. And the court system is still hearing those cases and acting on them. And I am so pleased with how that has worked out. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: How are they hearing those cases? Are they hearing them in person or they do do it in social distancing? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: They're doing it virtually by telephone, however it needs done if a hearing is needed. 


>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah. And as far as policing goes, I mean, you've probably seen in the news that they're trying to take fewer people to jail right now to not crowd it as much. But when it comes to violent crimes including things like domestic violence those people are still being taken to jail. There's no hold up on that. We're still picking those people who have hurt somebody else and to jail. So that - most of those procedures have been going just the same as they have before. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. And Debra I asked about kids. There's there's another layer of this and that's that sometimes pets can sort of slow down the process of somebody wanting to leave a relationship. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Yeah absolutely. Link violence - we know that when there's domestic violence in the home there can also be child abuse like we spoke about animal abuse or if there's elderly in the home, elder abuse. With pets we take emotional support pets and of course service animals in our shelter. For other pets, we will work very hard to help them find another place for that pet to go to be safe. We do not ever want that to prevent somebody from coming in for help. So our advocates will definitely work with them to help them navigate that situation. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We're talking about advocates' concerns about victims of domestic violence during this time of corona virus. We have three guests with us who are joining us via a Zoom call. Debra Morrow, the executive director of Middle Way House, Zoe Peterson, associate research scientist at the Indiana University Kinsey Institute and associate professor of counseling and educational psychology at IU, and Melissa Stone a social worker for the Bloomington Police Department. If you have questions or comments, they are here to answer your questions. Just send us your questions to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. And you can also follow us on Twitter at noon edition. Sara. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: I was just thinking because of the last things you were talking about. Melissa, perhaps you can answer what happens if you try to file a restraining order right now against someone in your home. Is the court still processing those kinds of things? 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah, Actually I'll let Debra talk about that. They do a lot more of that process than I do. 


>>DEBRA MORROW: Yes. They are still being processed. Our advocates work closely with the folks in the clerk's office virtually. And then they're still going before the judge. - the protective orders are still going before the judges being signed. If hearings have to be held, they're being held. That was one of the things right at the very beginning of this pandemic and the lockdown was in place. And I have to give the clerk's office some excellent credit for how this has gone and also the judges because the individuals who have come here for protective orders - it has worked very well for them. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Zoe are there more - are there certain groups of people women that are more likely to to be coming forward at a time like this and more and some that are less likely? 

>>ZOE PETERSON: Yes. Well so I think they're sort of two parts to that question. I think the first is that there some that are more vulnerable to being victims and then also kind of who would come forward. And I think - I mean we know that in general people who are marginalized or oppressed in some way are at greater vulnerabilities. So women do seem to be at more risk than men for very severe domestic violence. But men can be victims of perpetrators, either male or female perpetrators. And women can perpetrate against other women or against men. And there's some research to suggest that LGBTQ individuals may be at very high risk. And I think, consistent with that, individuals who are racial minorities older women women with disabilities tend to be at high risk. And I think all of this is because you know individuals who are experiencing oppression and discrimination probably have less power within their relationships. And they also have less resources and support outside of their relationship because of that discrimination. But those individuals may not be as likely to come forward because they fear discrimination, they fear that the services aren't geared toward them. It's harder maybe for them to get out of the house and get away. So I think marginalized and oppressed groups have greater vulnerability. But it's also harder for them to get services. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So we need to give those numbers two or three times during the program. So let's give those numbers again. If you are having some problems and you would like to talk with middle Way House, Debra... 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Our number is 8 1 2 3 3 6 0 8 4 6 4 for our crisis line. And I do want to add they are shelter can serve men, our shelter can serve individuals no matter what gender they identify with. And we definitely want people to know that we welcome everybody to our services. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Melissa, how about if somebody needs police help. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah. Absolutely of course you can always call 9 1 1. And then another note is that you can text 9 1 1. And then we'll get somebody out there to you. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. I want to ask you Melissa from your standpoint you are a police officer. And and police officers are having to go - there's no no staying at home for a police officer. You have to go out and do your work do your job. How is that affecting the department do you think? 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah. Well I'll just make it clear that I'm actually not an official police officer. I'm a social worker who just works with the police department. So I'm not a sworn police officer. However the police department has made all kinds of changes in terms of how we're cleaning cars in between shifts. And how we're getting information to each other in terms of not putting everybody in one room for roll call right now and things like that. I know a part of what I've been doing based on directives you know from chief and other admin people there is I've been putting together some mental health resources that I have sent out to police officers, especially during covid. Because I am a resource to the community I'm, also a resource to the officers within the department. So I've put out info about, these are some signs and symptoms of increased anxiety and depression. If you're having those, please reach out. And I recently did the same thing for family members. So family members know that they are welcome to contact me with concerns about what's going on with their significant other who was working at the police department right now. So there is a focus within the department right now especially to make sure that mental health services are being provided for people. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Debra, a similar question to you - your work and the work of people Middle Way House is stressful and difficult anyway. What extra steps are you taking to make sure that your people are taking care of and that everybody who's working with you stay safe? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: We have some staff that were especially vulnerable to the virus. And so for them we have them on projects, working at home and also working virtually with some clients. We've put in cleaning routines, really trying to have staff check in on each other, work together on making sure your coworkers are OK. We have some great board members who send pizza over to the staff and trying to do whatever we can understanding that is such a hard time. And really meeting the staff where they're out with their needs, really hearing them and their concerns and putting them first and foremost after our survivors. They're doing that frontline work. And I'm thinking particularly of our direct service staff. They're doing this work every day. And especially when this first started there was such an immense fear even amongst staff which was so understandable and you know really trying to help them with that and sending them resources and really trying to accommodate for their needs too. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Debra I'm curious just about the finances of Middle Way House because certainly nonprofits, folks that rely on donations and grants that they're struggling now. What are you - are you seeing an impact yet? And then how are you preparing for something like less money to operate? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: You know right now we're OK. And do we know what's coming in the future, no. I do understand that this community has so many needs. And there are so many great nonprofits in this town. And understanding individuals have lost jobs and things like that, we have not laid off any staff. I think it's very important that we try very hard to maintain our staff for all that they do and give to us you know? And my hope is that that it always stays that way. Right now we're OK. But you know I don't think any of us can predict long-term what the results of this will be. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Debra I know you have tons of great volunteers and great board members. But I have to ask. I know that Jesse Eisenberg and Anna Strout have been helping you and they've gotten some national press about the things that they've been doing from Middle Way now. What kinds of things have they been doing? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Well, we had our fern sale. And they helped deliver firms to people who bought them socially distanced while they did it. Jesse has even slept in mopped the floors in our transitional housing building because we have been cleaning rotations over there too. He's helped out with some of the repairs with the maintenance. They've helped with the mulching outside. I mean anything honestly that we need if we ask them to help with they're always willing. And I appreciate that because we have lost so many volunteers due to IU students leaving. And so it has been greatly welcome to have their actual physical help in the work that we do. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I think I'd be remiss if I didn't mention for those of you who - anybody out there that doesn't know Hannah Strout is the daughter of the late great Toby Strout who was the founder of Middle Way House, one of the founders of the White House and the long time director before for Debra. She and her husband Jesse Eisenberg are here helping out. So if you have any questions or comments for us today you you can still call us. We have about 20 minutes to go in the program, maybe about 15 minutes ago on the program. Send us an e-mail to news at - email us - tweet us at noon edition. You can also send us an email and noon edition. Wait a minute. I'll get that right in a minute news at Indiana Public Media dot org. Sorry. I'm having - my brain's having technical difficulty today I guess. Zoe, so the quarantine and the the idea that everybody is trying to deal with this, again can you just talk a little bit more about the LGBT community and how this affects people in that in that area? 

>>ZOE PETERSON: Yeah. So I mean I think there's a lot of ways in which the pandemic is especially hard on my marginalized populations like LGBTQ individuals. So often you know individuals who are sexual and gender minorities you know maybe for example don't have support, family who are not accepting of them or who have chosen to distance from them. They may - so they may not have that kind of social support, other people to turn to if they're experiencing for example domestic violence or other problems during their social isolation. They also may fear you're reaching out. And I know Middle Way is incredibly welcoming but, you know, a lot of people who are LGBTQ have been discriminated against in the past, have not felt supported, so they may have trouble trusting that and they may fear that, you know, if they were to come forward, that they would be discriminated against. They may also fear coming forward because they fear that they may contribute to bad ideas about the LGBTQ community. So if they come forward and say, you know, for example, my same sex partner is abusing me - that it might FEED discrimination and stereotypes about same sex couples. So all of these kinds of pieces of oppression and discrimination just make the situation more complicated. 


>>SARA WITTMEYER: I can ask a follow up about that. What about young people who might have had to go home to their parents and perhaps they're not supportive? It just seems like that could really put young people in a bad way. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Yes, absolutely. And I think we're hearing a lot of reports of that - that LGBTQ young adults who, you know, were outside of their home and away from their families have now had to return to families that are unsupportive and had to stay there with their families without their other kinds of social networks and supports, which I think is incredibly hard on people's mental health. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Debra, in another area that is related, according to U.N. News, social isolation may also make it harder for human trafficking victims to leave their current situations. Law enforcement resources are diverted, travel restrictions are in place. Is that something that you at Middle Way House get involved with? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: We do work with trafficking survivors and absolutely. I think anything that isolates individuals more is going to make it more challenging for individuals to recognize somebody who's being trafficked into reach out and help them. Another concern that, you know, really concerns me - and I'm sure Melissa too - is the increase in gun sales that have showed up. In March, my understanding is there was a huge increase in gun sales and there was, like, 3.7 million requests for background checks for guns. And when you think about how much - how many individuals are killed in domestic violence by guns - over half of the females that are killed in intimate partner relationships are killed by a gun. And we look at Indianapolis not so far away, where we recently had an officer who was killed responding to a domestic violence situation. That worries me a whole lot that we might be adding guns in a home with isolation and where domestic violence is going on. So that worries me every day. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. How about, Melissa, could you add to that? And then I have a follow up for you as well. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah, sure. I agree with Debra on so many of these points. So - and Zoe. When we are talking about isolation and the more isolation somebody might experience, it's going to cause increased problems. And then Debra mentioned gun sales - I don't have exact numbers on gun sales, however I have also seen that just around in other news sources that those numbers have skyrocketed. And that's a - that is a major concern for safety and safety of everybody involved, just like Debra said, including police officers. Domestic violence calls can be very dangerous in general, so officers are always very, very alert and try their very best to do all the safety things when they are called - when they respond to those calls. So those are both very, very big concerns for us as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Our producer has sent me a note that says March was - according to the New York Times, March was the biggest month in sales - gun sales since 2013. So the numbers are definitely going up. My follow up for you, Melissa, is about people who are experiencing homelessness and what this is doing to that particular population in terms of the social - from a social worker's standpoint and also for the resource officers of the police department. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah, absolutely. That's a really great question. So of course we have really great partners in our community with Wheeler and with Shalom, who are doing great things and still serving that population. But due to regulations, of course, they've had to make a lot of changes in terms of spacing people out more. And a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness, even if they were out living in the woods or something else before, wanted to be inside someplace whenever we heard about this pandemic and how things spread. And it just became - and it - the shelters became very full very fast and there's been changes in terms of people who - you know, Shalom and Wheeler are usually places where people who experience homelessness can get together and have that community where they just can't have that right now the same way, and I think those are growing concerns. I know the health department and Wheeler work together to train some peers on social distancing and ways to protect yourself from COVID, and those peers are going out with little bags that include hand sanitizer, a face covering and things like that so that - so people experiencing homelessness are educating other people experiencing homelessness about ways to stay safe during this time. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: How does this issue with people experiencing home homelessness overlap with the domestic violence issue and just the issue of violence in general? 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah, I think people who are already experiencing homelessness have a huge - have huge stressors already, right? So they don't always know where they're sleeping that night. They can typically get a meal where - whenever they - you know, if they go to Shalom or Wheeler, and that's pretty stable if they can get there. But if you're already having those stressors and you add on the pandemic of people who might not have jobs now because restaurants aren't at full capacity and things like that, and you're adding those types of stressors on to that, it's just going to increase the likelihood of violence in any sort. But if you just think about it in layers, you just keep adding on another layer and another layer and another layer, and you're just going to increase the likelihood. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Debra, have you seen any relationship between, you know, COVID and the pandemic and domestic violence with people who are experiencing homelessness? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: Domestic violence is one of the greatest causes of homelessness for individuals - women with children. You know, we always have individuals in our community who are experiencing homelessness and domestic violence both, and it can make them more vulnerable because if the choice is homelessness or being - if they feel like they're only choice is homelessness or being with their abuser, they may go back to the abuser, especially during this time, out of fear of being homeless and going to a shelter with the unknown of the virus. So, I mean, I totally agree with what Melissa said with the layers and layers. I mean, you know, when we work in these social service fields, it's not just one clean issue - like we're just dealing with domestic violence. We are dealing with individuals with domestic violence who also experience homelessness who also experience poverty who might experience addiction issues - you know, so many different things. It's never just one issue. So it intersects in many ways. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: So Debra - and then maybe Melissa - what would you all tell someone right now who is going through a domestic violence situation and they're worried about leaving or even calling during the pandemic because of all the uncertainty surrounding, you know, the economy and infection and all of those things. How would you advise them? 

>>DEBRA MORROW: I would suggest them to reach out - and I'll give our number again, 8123360846, or to chat with us through our message line. You know, reach out and talk. It does not commit you to anything. I mean, if you're wondering about shelter, call and ask how we're working to keep it safe. Let us at least safety plan with you. If you know you're not going to leave, let us safety playing with you to talk about how you can best stay safe in your situation. Like, if things start to escalate, what's the safest room in the house for you to be in? Know that there's people there to support you. I think most important that you deserve help. No one deserves to experience abuse. And I think a lot of times there's friends and people that they may interact with that they may have lost those connections with during this time - maybe co-workers who they had as support systems. So what I would ask people most of all is stay connected to people, especially if they were people who you thought might have had problems at home in their relationship. Stay connected to them even if you're just calling to check on the family. Just being a constant to them can be helpful to them, knowing that they have, still, people around to support them. You know, sometimes you just calling and checking in on somebody might break that tension in the home for a moment and kind of help calm things down in that moment. Just stay connected and watch out for each other. Be there for each other. Let people know that they're not alone. Let them know it's OK to call us and it is not committing them to anything. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Yeah, I don't know that I can add anything to that, Debra. That was amazing. But, yeah, I mean, first and foremost, we validate what people are experiencing, right? So whatever they're feeling, whatever they're experiencing, yeah, of course you - there's increased anxiety about wanting to do - leave right now with the uncertainty of COVID and all of those those things - so just really validating people that - they're - you know, they're thinking through those decisions. You always safety plan and I always, like Debra mentioned - has mentioned a couple of times, I always say Middle Way House this so much more than just offer shelter. They have people who are on the line all the time, right? They have groups. They have all of these things that don't require you to be outside of your home. So I try to make sure I really help them understand that it's more than just having to leave. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Zoe, do you want to add anything to that? 

>>ZOE PETERSON: No. I mean, I think - I agree. I think that's all really great advice. And I like what Debra said about - you know, we can all kind of take some responsibility for reaching out to people we're concerned about for any reason. We're concerned that they might be in a bad relationship or they might be really stressed or they might be having a hard time because - yeah, because this social isolation this is hard on everyone, but especially if they have other - those layers of stressors that we've been talking about. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We just have about three minutes to go. Debra, I'm glad that Melissa said that. I mean, Middle Way has a whole range of services that you provide. One is your transitional housing at the Rise, and I wanted to know how things have changed at the Rise during the pandemic. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: You know, it's going on pretty much as it has been. I mean, people have their own apartments there. The youth program right now is not operating how it previously did. Actually, I'm meeting with the youth program coordinator after this to kind of discuss reopening and how to navigate that so we don't have large crowds of kids all at once. But they've been doing YouTube videos for the kids, doing family - like, meetings with families through Zoom, connecting with the kids that way. The youth program has been delivering food to the families with kids. It's been - actually, I've seen a lot of closeness in the families at the Rise, but different ways of becoming close and... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. Along with that, just let me ask - I mean, I used to drive by there in the mornings a lot and get stuck buying school buses. So adding the fact that all those kids that are living there with their moms are staying at home, there's had to been a lot of education going on there too, I assume. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: ...Yes. And so the youth program coordinator has been supporting the families in that and making sure everybody has what they need to handle what they need to do for their education for the kids. So the school was great in providing tablets for the kids to use. So it's actually gone well and I think there has probably been a whole lot of parents that have really been proud of themselves through this situation on what they've accomplished. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. We're down to our last minute. I want to give everybody an opportunity to just add their last comments about how - you know, how we - how people can - well, first of all, how people can stay safe if they're experiencing something like domestic violence. And secondly, how can people who - how can the rest of us help out? So Debra, you might as well just go first. 

>>DEBRA MORROW: OK. I'm going to give our number again. It's 8123360846. And one thing I want to say is this community has always been so supportive around issues of domestic violence and sexual violence and human trafficking, and I appreciate that. And, you know, we continue to need your support. Our volunteer opportunities are going to look different in the future and we need you to help us with volunteers and all the great things that you've always done for us. We appreciate it so much. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Fifteen seconds each, Melissa and Zoe. 

>>ZOE PETERSON: So I'll just say - I mean, I agree with that. If you're having - if you're struggling in whatever way, reach out. Reach out to Middle Way, reach out to a local therapist - that includes if you're worried about your own anger. So we didn't talk about that, but if you're worried that you're having trouble controlling your anger, there are really ways to help with that. So I just encourage people to reach out and to check in on each other. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. 

>>MELISSA STONE: Awesome. And, yeah, please, please, please if you see something or you hear something, please call 911. And remember that you can text 911 if you don't feel like you can make that call, so that's always an option as well. And just know that there are lots of people out here to support you. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thank you very much. (Inaudible) Bloomington police department. Also heard from Zoe Peterson from Indiana University's Kinsey Institute and IU, and Debra Morrow, executive director of Middle Way House. For our producers Bente Bouthier and Kathy Knapp, for John Bailey and for our engineers Matt Stonecipher and Mike Paskash, and for cohost Sara Wittmeyer, I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening. 


>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: NOON EDITION is a production of WFIU public radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support for NOON EDITION comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at And from the Bloomington Health Foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation - improving health and well-being takes a community. More at 


middle way

Middle Way House in Bloomington. (WFIU/WTIU News)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

Studies have shown that stress caused by crisis events often lead to spikes in both domestic violence and child abuse.

Many domestic violence advocates are concerned that as people quarantine together and avoid going out in public, there will be increases in domestic abuse that go under-reported.

One study on crime during COVID-19 showed that in recent weeks, overall crime dropped by 43 percent. But domestic crime rates did not fall as dramatically, dropping by 23 percent.

And though overall reports of domestic violence went down, the most violent categories for domestic crime did not.

Social factors during the pandemic, like rising unemployment and children staying home may influence whether domestic violence is reported.

Victims who are working from home may not be able to reach out for help or seek out resources with the same discretion as before the COVID-29 pandemic.

Minorities and older women are especially at risk of experiencing domestic abuse.

According to the National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence.

The National LGBTQ Institute on Intimate Partner Violence says sexual and gender minorities are particularly at risk of facing domestic violence right now because the stressors they experience as a marginalized member of socialiety are elevated during the pandemic.

This week, we are talking about concerns of domestic violence during quarantine.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air.

Our Guests

Melissa Stone, social worker for the Bloomington Police Department

Zoe Peterson, associate research scientist at the Indiana University Kinsey Institute, associate professor of counseling and educational psychology at IU

Debra Morrow, executive director of Middle Way House, Bloomington

The help and crisis line for Middle Way House is (812) 336-0846

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

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