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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Domestic Violence Up According To Service Providers, Who Worry About Funding For Next Year

A woman talks to another woman in a lobby with a sign reading CAPSA behind her.
Courtesy of CAPSA
Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse is a non-profit domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape recovery center serving Cache County and the Bear Lake area. Calls to the center have increased by over 100% since the pandemic began.

Domestic violence hotlines have been ringing off the hook this year, according to service providers like Jill Anderson, executive director of a Logan-based organization called Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse, or CAPSA.

She said her organization normally receives around 1,200 calls a quarter, but since the pandemic started, that number has gone up to 2,500.

At Seekhaven Family Crisis and Resource Center, a similar service provider in Moab, calls have more than doubled in 2020 compared to 2019.

And at the DOVE Center in St. George, hotline calls increased by 50% in June and then again in September.

Liz Sollis with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition attributes the increases to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had compounding effects that lead to increased abuse.

“Isolation is a power and control tool regularly used by a perpetrator,” she said. “And a pandemic such as COVID, it just increases the amount of isolation, giving the abuser, if you will, more power than before.”

In addition to the increase in calls, Sollis said service providers across the state have all experienced a 25 to 50% increase in requests for services like emergency shelter placement and victim advocacy. But the pandemic has made helping clients harder.

Tess Barger, client services director at Seekhaven, said they have been putting clients in local motels rather than their shelter in order to keep them safe from COVID-19.

“Spending this year on hotels compared to last year is exorbitant,” she said. “We’ve probably spent 10s of thousands of dollars in the last several months.”

Going into 2021, service providers are worried about meeting the demand for their services. The federal CARES Act provided some funding for domestic violence service providers, as did the relief package passed earlier this week. But Anderson said groups like hers still expect to receive less money from the federal government in 2021 and plan to ask state lawmakers to make up the difference.

“Our organization is actually facing the perfect storm,” she said, explaining that a longtime funding source called the Crime Victims Fund is drying up just as demand for services is increasing.

The fund was established in 1984 by the Victims of Crimes Act, which created a system that fines convicted federal offenders to provide money for crime-related losses and service providers. But disbursements are expected to be smaller in the upcoming year.

Anderson said she expects CAPSA and other organizations in Utah will receive 25% less money from the fund next year than they did in 2020, which adds up to around $2 million in losses statewide.

To address both the cut in federal funding and the increase in demand, Anderson said she’s working with Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Logan, to request over $3 million for providers in the upcoming legislative session.

Ed Note: If you or anyone you know are in an abusive situation, you can call the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-897-LINK (5465), or the Utah Sexual Violence Crisis Line, 1-888-421-1100. In an emergency, call 911.

Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. She served as a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country.
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