Domestic violence-related fatalities in Ohio have spiked over the past year, and some experts partly blame isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Health care providers, counselors, all can kind of sense when the temperature is rising in a really dangerous relationship,” says Jo Simonsen, program director with Ohio Domestic Violence Network. “As we limit those interactions, that can certainly give us pause to think about is this related to the pandemic.”
The report by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network showed 109 people died from domestic violence incidents between July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. That is a 35% jump from the previous year.
Simonsen says at least 26 of those deaths were suicides.
“Families are isolated during this pandemic due to physical distancing,” Simonsen says. “That means that perhaps they don’t have the same relationships or access to their relationships, friends, family members.”
Franklin County recorded 18 deaths, leading all counties with the most fatalities for the third year in a row.
Simonsen says tighter gun restrictions could prevent some of the deaths.
“The access to firearms is a significant matter in domestic violence,” Simonsen says. “We saw 70% of our cases, of our fatal incidents, have firearms involved, so a shooting involved.”
Meanwhile, Simonsen says organizations like hers have seen dramatic funding cuts in recent years. Ohio currently spends about $1 million a year on programs. Advocates who met this week with lawmakers are asking for a boost up to $5 million.
“We’re at a critical period in Ohio,” Simonsen says. “Two years ago, the major source of funding for Ohio’s domestic violence programs and shelters was cut $10 million. These are critical funds that help with relocating victims to a safer place for them to stay away from their abuser.”
Simonsen says survivors should seek help as soon as they need it.
“We don’t want victims of domestic violence to hesitate to reach out to us or to their local programs for help,” says Simonsen. “We are being creative and we are being innovative and we will do everything we can to make sure that they are still served.”