Calls to LA County domestic violence hotline saw significant increase in 2020

The biggest spike was in May, when calls for domestic violence tripled from May of 2019.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The deadly coronavirus has taken the lives of over half a million Americans. And there is another crisis, a silent killer, that has also worsened over the last year: domestic violence.

"Given the circumstances of COVID, it has greatly exacerbated the fear, the danger, for domestic violence victims and survivors," Symone Fairchild said. She is the founder of Eye on DV, a movement based in Los Angeles to eradicate domestic violence.

Fairchild is a survivor herself, having experienced physical, psychological, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her abuser.

"Having Christmas trees thrown at me, being pinned up against the wall by my neck. It's interesting how the body and the brain will hold memories from you if you're not able to handle them at the time," she sighed.

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The victim was able to summon help by calling Walt Disney World under the pretense that she was booking tickets, then conveyed to the employee who answered that she was in danger, police say.

Survival, some could argue, is even harder for women and men experiencing abuse during this pandemic as Americans are asked to stay home and avoid other households. At the same time, women's shelters that previously could offer reprieve are now operating in limited capacity.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department domestic violence calls for service spiked in April 2020, one month into the county's safer at home order. Police responded to about 16% more calls than in April of 2019.

And the LA County Department of Public Health's Domestic Violence Council Hotline has seen an increase every month of 2020 compared to 2019. The biggest spike was in May, when calls for domestic violence tripled from May of 2019.

By December, calls were still coming in at a volume 32% higher than the previous year.

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We talked to Justine Rosales who is also a survivor. She was hospitalized at three months pregnant after being attacked by her then boyfriend.

"I had purple eyes and everything but nothing was done and I didn't know where to reach out to," she explained.

And many victims never do, for fear of judgment or that they won't be believed. This is why police reports and hotlines can never tell the whole story. Justine now uses her platform and podcast "Justine Case Mom" as a tool to help other victims.

So how can you be an advocate? Both women say the answer is simple: listen without judgment and provide whatever help you can.

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, or you know someone who is, there is help available 24/7. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.

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Grace Manthey contributed to this report.
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