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Health

Local domestic violence numbers are still skyrocketing more than 18 months into the pandemic

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Domestic violence numbers in the Greater Cincinnati and surrounding area began to see some of its highest rates ever when the pandemic started. More than 18 months later, that trend has not waned. One local leader says the situation is not hopeless, but it's not good, either.

"I would quantifiably put it, that it is worse," said Kristin Shrimplin, president and CEO of Women Helping Women. "We are seeing a continuing trend that has not been disrupted as it relates to intimate partner violence, domestic violence cases, the complexity of those cases, injuries that are resulting, and unfortunately and very sadly, homicide as a result of domestic violence and intimate partner violence homicide."

Nineteen homicides this year have been linked to intimate partner or domestic violence. That's higher than last year's confirmed 16 cases, though that number may be as high as 20.

Shrimplin says the reasons behind the increase are complicated.

"The pandemic is not causing gender-based violence because gender-based violence has always been here. Economic strife is not causing gender-based violence because gender-based violence has always been here. However, these are additional stressors."

Access to health care, behavioral care, education and remote working conditions all contribute to creating a powder keg situation for some. Continued health risks associated with the pandemic are also a factor, keeping people from seeking help.

"This is what we heard time and time again last year from survivors, where they knew that they were experiencing sexual assault injuries, domestic violence injuries, but were too scared to go to health care systems during a pandemic for fear of COVID," Shrimplin said. "And I don't think that some of those fears and challenges have abated."

But local officials, she adds, have stepped up to try addressing some of these issues. New and improved partnerships between the police, city and county officials have made a difference.

For instance, the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team, which sends an advocate with police officers to domestic violence calls, expanded into 16 jurisdictions this year. The program was launched in Cincinnati.

The service has already helped 1,200 adult survivors and 1,800 children.

At both a statewide and local level, Shrimplin says more money has been allocated for domestic violence response services, which has been necessary to keep things operating as budget cuts happen elsewhere.

For instance, funding from the Victims of Crime Act has been slashed 71% in the past two years. That amounted to almost $600,000 in lost funding at an agency that has a $2 million budget.

"We're very grateful, whether it's a city or the county or private donors, corporations, foundations saying, 'You know what, we're all in this together, how can we help and be of service?' " Shrimplin says. "Because that is the only way we can now hire more staff. It's not coming from some of that national support."

Women Helping Women helps about 8,000 people per year. Its 24-hour hotline number is 513-381-5610. It can be called or texted. For more information about Women Helping Women, visit their website.