Since March, the amount of domestic violence homicides reported in Tarrant County has exceeded the total number of cases reported in 2019. SafeHaven, the largest and most comprehensive domestic violence service provider in the county, is doing all that it can to prevent these homicides from happening while simultaneously supporting survivors of abusive relationships.
When the pandemic first began, SafeHaven saw a spike in hotline calls. As Shelter in Place was implemented for Tarrant County, the phones quieted, only to skyrocket again at the beginning of May. Now, the hotline’s call volume is 30% higher than it was last year. Although COVID-19 is not a direct cause of the violence, it is a contributing factor in the uptick of cases.
“We have viewed COVID-19 as another tool in an offender’s toolbox,” said Kathryn Jacobs, CEO of SafeHaven of Tarrant County. “We’ve seen the violence of cases increase. A lot of victims have been trapped in their homes. We have more catalysts [for violence] than we did before because COVID-19 has brought out a lot of these stressors.”
Current circumstances have allowed offenders to abuse their partners in secret, using COVID-19 as a tool to keep victims from going to work or seeing friends and family. Women calling SafeHaven’s hotline have reported cases of their partners tying them up to keep them home or leaving weapons at the door as a warning for them not to leave.
In one recent presumed partner homicide, says Jacobs, a man murdered his significant other, wrapped her in a tarp, and left her on their bed for two weeks. She wasn’t discovered until he confessed what he had done.
Heartbreaking cases like this are one of the many reasons why Jacobs is so passionate about developing SafeHaven’s High Risk Team, a group that assists the county’s most high-risk victims while working toward systemic change with leaders in the community. As of right now, there are less than 10 people on the team — a vast gap in comparison to the amount of high-risk cases in Tarrant County. More than 1,000 cases were reported last year, and with COVID-19 in play, the number is only tracking up. SafeHaven recently requested COVID-19 funding from the City Council to assist in its mission to expand the High Risk Team.
“[This] is entirely a COVID expense,” said Jacobs. “None of the data supports that we would have this number of homicides were it not for a global pandemic.”
While they wait for the verdict on funding, SafeHaven is continuing to fight domestic violence, doing its best to assist high-risk victims and provide services to survivors.
SafeHaven’s 24-hour hotline is still up and running. It is accepting (contactless) donations. It’s providing counseling and legal aid to survivors and running the Partner Abuse & Prevention Program for offenders (via Zoom). And of course, shelters in Fort Worth and Arlington are still open, with proper health precautions in place. While all of these services support SafeHaven’s mission, says Jacobs, the shelter and High Risk Team are the two main interventions used to save lives.
“[Our other services] are all really important in this work, but they don’t save a life,” said Jacobs. “[The] shelter and High Risk Team do. With a High Risk Team, getting your community’s homicide number to zero is entirely possible. It’s been done other places. Why can’t we also do the same?”
Read the full online article at: https://fwtx.com/news/the-fight-for-freedom/?fbclid=IwAR2yrm9TsM5cqrjCcU6qK76QT9stVDEwH479dDk3-ypTDuLDCXR3WO4LJHc
SafeHaven Hotline: 1-877-701-7233