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Cedar Rapids Police, some domestic violence intervention groups report increase in domestic abuse

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Law enforcement and some community groups across eastern Iowa say they’re seeing an increase in domestic abuse over the last year.

At a Youth Services and Public Safety meeting in September, Cedar Rapids police reported seeing a 17% increase in domestic abuse through the end of August in 2021. Programs that help domestic abuse victims say there could be several factors to that increase, including stressors coming from the pandemic.

Staff at Waypoint Services in Cedar Rapids say while their domestic violence programs have seen regular numbers over the past year, the pandemic and changes in in-person services have impacted how people may reach out for help.

“Everything went virtual or over the phone, and then sometimes maybe the victim’s only option would be to reach out to law enforcement if something got to that point where that was needed,” Alexis Chadwick, program coordinator with Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Victim Services Program, said.

Chadwick said an increase in reports isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it can mean not that more incidents are happening, but that more incidents are being reported.

“It’s happening, the violence is happening regardless of what’s being reported to law enforcement. And so sometimes if that’s going to get people thinking ‘oh, OK, this is an issue in our community,’ it very much is, and all the more reason to help survivors in any way,” Chadwick said.

At last month’s meeting, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman attributed the increase in part to a change in how officers document reports of domestic abuse.

“More officers are documenting the calls for domestic abuse. And by documenting those reports it makes it easier for those victims to have charges placed when they go before the county attorney’s office,” Jerman said.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is based in Iowa City, and serves 8 counties in Iowa. Leaders there say they’re seeing an increase in the use of their services due to the ongoing pandemic. Staff are answering more calls and putting in more service hours than ever before.

“The level in which people are reaching out is a much more lethal space. There’s been increased reports of strangulation, increased reports of guns being used, lives being threatened, that sort of thing. Over the last year and certainly, I would say over the last 4-6 months,” Alta Medea-Peters, director of community engagement at DVIP, said.

Medea-Peters said during DVIP’s fiscal year from July 1, 2020, to June 31, 2021, the organization helped 2,189 people and had 20,109 service hours. That’s a major jump from a typical year when they have around 3,000 service hours.

She said they’re also seeing an increase in need for shelter due to the pandemic, as some people in need of help aren’t able to stay with friends or family due to COVID-19.

“In one quarter we had a 76% increase in funding requests for shelter. Which is massive,” Medea-Peters said.

Both Waypoint and DVIP said increasing awareness of domestic abuse is important.

“The more that we shine a light and talk about domestic violence, human trafficking, and stalking, the more we can take power away from the perpetrator,” Medea-Peters said.

If you or someone you know is in need of help related to domestic violence, call the DVIP hotline at 1-800-373-1043.

You can also reach out to Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Program at 319-363-2093 or 800-208-0388.

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