Domestic violence cases made worse by pandemic in Clark, Champaign counties

The trees and bushes around the Esplanade in downtown Springfield were decorated with purple ribbons for the Project Woman Candlelight Vigil for domestic violence held several years ago. Bill Lackey/Staff
The trees and bushes around the Esplanade in downtown Springfield were decorated with purple ribbons for the Project Woman Candlelight Vigil for domestic violence held several years ago. Bill Lackey/Staff

“There was a lot of enduring”

Domestic violence incidents are continuing at a high rate in Clark and Champaign counties, according to local law enforcement, and people who work to combat domestic violence say Covid continues to aggravate the situations.

Nearly 400 domestic violence calls have been reported to the Springfield Division of Police as of the end of September, according to police records, and nearly 600 calls were reported to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office so far this year.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and area law enforcement are reporting a high number of calls this year, with cares trending toward topping the number of 2020 incidents.

As of the end of September, the Springfield Police Division had received 266 domestic violence calls that resulted in a charge, with three resulting in charges other than domestic violence and 125 that resulted in no charges filed.

The Clark County sheriff’s office is expecting to see more calls this year than the 751 it received in 2020, Sgt. Denise Jones told the News-Sun. In 2019, however, the sheriff’s office received 878 calls.

Springfield’s nonprofit Project Woman, which is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault for all people reported the group has helped more than 1,100 people this year so far. The shelter has also provided more than 5,391 shelter nights in 2021.

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Project Woman Executive Director Laura Baxter told the News-Sun that the nonprofit has been working on ways to increase its capacity through grant funding to reconfigure the space it has in order to accommodate social distancing. Baxter said she is hoping the nonprofit will double its bed capacity through the funding.

“In Clark County specifically, and Champaign County as well, we just need more bed capacity for the emergency shelter,” she said. “It’s a lot of demand, and the capacity for shelter and safe housing options is not sufficient for the need.” She also said that the shelter does not operate on a waitlist, as people reaching out for help need to be connected to a safe space immediately.

Baxter said the pandemic did not cause abuse, but rather gave power to abusers and fewer opportunities for the discovery of abuse due to isolation.

“There was a lot of enduring,” she said.

Project Woman outlines on its website warning signs of abuse:

  • checking a partner’s cell phone or email without permission
  • constantly putting a partner down
  • displaying extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • displaying an explosive temper
  • isolating a partner from family or friends
  • making false accusations
  • displaying mood swings
  • physically hurting a partner in any way
  • possessiveness
  • making demands
  • repeatedly pressuring a partner to have sex.

Baxter said sometimes when a person is experiencing certain relationship “red flags,” though, that person may minimize the signs in a way someone on the outside of the relationship may not.

Baxter said she often hears from people a variation of the same question: why do people stay?

“People stay, we stay, out of hope,” she said. “There’s a lot of ways we’re hoping that this too shall pass. Or, this is a big one we hear: if I just love right, the abuse will stop or the violence will end. And when the hope has been beaten down and betrayed... in that hopelessness, then a survivor needs to find something else to hope in.”

This, Baxter said, is where Project Woman comes in: partnering with people and supporting them so they can find someone else to hope in — themselves.

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During this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness month, the state’s network of domestic violence shelters is pointing to an increase in fatalities: Ohio suffered 131 domestic violence fatalities in the year ending June 30, a 20% increase in fatalities over the same time period last year, and a 62% increase from two years ago, according to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN).

In Clark County, no fatalities were reported from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, nor the year before. However, during the same time, 31 counties reported at least one fatality as a result of a domestic violence incident.

This year statewide, fifteen young victims were killed, the largest yearly number of minors to die in domestic violence fatalities since the ODVN began counting six years ago. Two of the young victims were killed by their older male partners in fatal dating violence incidents. In two separate incidents, a man with a history of domestic violence shot and killed his or his girlfriend’s two young children. In three separate cases, a father shot and killed his wife and all of their children in their family home. Children were at the scene in 16 additional cases, ODVN reported.

At least 86% of the fatalities were caused by guns, and 34% of the cases involved a suicide. A total of 121 people were either killed or injured with guns during instances of domestic violence in Ohio during that same timeframe, according to ODVN’s annual report.

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Thirty cases involved multiple fatalities, with one case resulting in five deaths, and three cases resulting in four deaths each.

ODVN’s annual report found that in roughly 27% of fatality cases reported the victim of intimate partner violence had ended the relationship or was taking steps to end the relationship.

ODVN also reported that at least six incidents in the state involved a domestic violence perpetrator with pending criminal charges related to domestic violence. At least two offenders had explicit pre-trial release conditions ordering them to have no contact with their victims. At least two of the offenders had outstanding warrants and another two offenders had upcoming court dates.

Project Woman has held multiple events in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The nonprofit hosted a candlelight vigil in honor of survivors, advocates and allies on Oct. 7 at the Project Woman offices, and the annual Diva Night Out fundraiser was held on Oct. 14 at COhatch.

A community drive is being held for items to donate to help women and families in the Project Woman programs. Donation items include paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, etc.), high efficiency laundry detergent and dryer sheets, cleaning products and trash bags, diapers, phone and gas cards, bus passes, personal hygiene items for women or children, linens (bath or kitchen towels, wash clothes, etc.), and journals or notebooks. Donations can be dropped off in the box by The Market Bar and Give Wall.

Also upcoming is Purple Thursday, held on Oct. 21. Purple Thursday is a national day of action in which supporters are asked to wear purple, the color of domestic violence awareness.

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By the Numbers:

266: Number of calls to Springfield Police Division that resulted in a charge of domestic violence

591: Number of domestic violence calls to Clark County Sheriff’s Office this year

31: Number of counties in Ohio that reported a fatality linked to domestic violence in the ODVN annual report

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