As Kentucky emerges from the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on mental health and domestic violence is rising to the surface. WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Andrea Robinson, who was recently named president of the board of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Robinson is executive director of Oasis, a domestic violence service agency in Owensboro.
During the past year, when the pandemic was raging, Robinson says Oasis received half as many calls as it did the previous year and that just increased concern for victims of domestic abuse.
Robinson: Oh, it has been very difficult. We have seen a decline in numbers as far as people wanting to come into shelter, and we believe that's primarily because of the stay at home orders and the isolation that comes along with that quarantining. But our victims have also kind of been stuck at home with their batterers. And so it's been difficult for them to be able to leave that environment in order to help de-escalate situations or escape the abuse. So being able to pick up the phone and call someone in regards to that abuse has become more difficult. It doesn't mean that the domestic violence isn't happening. It just means if they're at home and they try to call for help in the batterers home, then that could cause increased abuse.
Miller: And the people that did come in to shelter during the past year, was it similar to how things were before? I mean, as far as the issues and the severity of it.
Robinson: Yes, and in some cases more severe. For some, it might have been a lot more heightened levels of abuse. And so for some of them, it may have felt closer to a life or death situation or a risk of severe harm. When you're in a traumatic and hostile environment that can be escalated. And so for those abusers, there may be an increased feeling of loss of control, which can escalate the abuse even towards children, not just the victims of domestic violence. But we could probably expect to see an increase in child abuse.
Miller: As far as working with the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, are you hearing anything different, in different regions or from different groups in different areas?
Robinson: We're hearing a lot of stories of increased severity of abuse. I think across the state we all saw declines in numbers, especially in some of the more rural areas. But it's been a struggle across the state for all of us to just try to maintain services and make sure that when victims are reaching out to try to receive services that were available.
Miller: Have you had many men come in to the shelter during the past year?
Robinson: We have we've actually served five men in shelter over the year.
Miller: Is that more than previously?
Robinson: Yes. Yeah, it was very difficult for us to be able to offer shelter previously. But once we figured out how to overcome those obstacles and make sure that we were providing inclusive services to all members, including members of the LGBTQ community, which are often overlooked in domestic violence, once word got out that, you know, Oasis and our other shelter programs across the state, that we do offer services to all victims, it doesn't matter what your race, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, sexual orientation, it doesn't matter if you're a victim of domestic violence, you can come to us and get services.
Miller: Thanks so much, Andrea. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
Robinson: Thank you.
Miller: I've been speaking with Andrea Robinson, president of the board of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.