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As more stay home, domestic violence concerns rise

For many, home is considered a safe haven from the dangers of the outside world, but for victims of domestic violence, home can be a dangerous place.

While North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide stay-at-home order contains a specific exemption for dangerous situations like domestic violence, the staff at Ruth’s House is concerned that more time spent at home during the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to an uptick in abuse.

“All over the world, there’s the fear that calls are going to increase and people are going to need more services,” said Ruth’s House Client Services Coordinator Jaclyn Cullipher. “There is no break from their abuser. Typically, people go to work or have friends and family they can escape to if things are beginning to get violent or heated. With the stay-at-home order, that’s not the case.”

Cullipher says she believes it is only a matter of time before those calls increase for her organization, and that they may hear about more cases of abuse after the pandemic subsides.

Under the governor’s stay-at-home order, shelters like Ruth’s House are considered essential businesses, and the nonprofit is still offering services for victims, though the Ruth’s House Thrift Store is closed for now. The shelter remains open, the organization is still taking clients, and staff can help people file for relief through the courts. Though there will be no trials until courts reconvene, judges are still issuing emergency protection orders.

For those who remain at home under potentially dangerous circumstances, Cullipher says safety planning is key. That involves thinking about potential dangers in the household and ways to get out if needed.

“If you are a victim, have been a victim in the past or fear you could be a victim, these are definitely things you want to consider,” Cullipher said. “Can you get out a window? Who can you call? What can you do to deescalate the situation? Our staff is trained to talk through that with people. Give us a call, and we can discuss these things and pose some questions about each individual situation.”

Within the Ruth’s House shelter, the staff is helping residents maintain their physical distance from one another while providing for their needs. As always, donations of household goods and cleaning supplies are welcome and needed, and financial donations can go a long way, according to Cullipher.

To learn more about Ruth’s House, or to make a donation, visit www.ruths-house.org. If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, call the Ruth’s House help line at 252-940-0007. To contact Ruth’s House shelter personnel for more information, email sheltermanager@ruths-house.org.