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Calls To Domestic Violence Hotline Have Risen During Pandemic, Advocates Say

The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence says calls to its hotline are up 20% over a 3-month period when compared with that same period last year.The group's executive director, Francine Garland Stark, said Thursday on Maine Public's Maine Calling program that the organization is receiving more urgent calls for assistance. And callers say they feel less safe since the pandemic began.

"We asked them whether or not they had elevated safety concerns because of the COVID-19 circumstances and 72% of that 2,084 people said yes, they had elevated concerns," Garland Stark said.

Garland Stark says women are a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence than men - some more than others. "If a woman is a woman of color, if a woman is indigenous, if a woman is of any community that is marginalized within our society, they are at a much greater risk of harm."

Daryl Fort, a board president for the group, focuses on gender violence prevention. Fort said the travel restrictions and isolation caused by the spread of the new coronavirus mean some people aren't able to physically get away from their abusers.

Fort said this can mean that people experiencing domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence aren't able to access support systems. "And then, conversely, those that are abusive have their victims in a captive state and then have a greater ability to abuse and control.

Both Garland Stark and Fort spoke on Maine Calling Thursday. Coalition Executive Director Garland Stark says increased attention to social media has allowed the group to assure the public that their services are still available, and that they've been able to provide shelter support throughout this time for people in need.