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Tucson experts say fewer people sought care for domestic violence during pandemic

Posted at 6:56 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 09:13:18-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — When a patient comes into Tucson Medical Center's emergency room, Dr. Lisa Goldberg is there to help.

"We ask a survey of all of our patients. We ask if they are in a relationship in which they have been hurt or if they feel they are at risk for domestic violence," said Goldberg.

Goldberg said the number of patients who answered "yes" to that survey decreased in 2020, when compared to 2019.

"We saw half of the patients per month that we were seeing pre-pandemic. It almost gives a false representation that the pandemic had a positive impact on domestic violence, when it absolutely did not," said Goldberg.

According to a report by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, domestic violence incidents increased by 8.1% in the United States after stay-at-home orders were put in place. At the same time, health experts in Tucson said the ability to seek care became more difficult for victims.

"There were a lot of increased risks. There were more incidents of abuse, but at the same time, there was a lot less time to have the freedom to pick up the phone and call Emerge," said Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse CEO, Ed Mercurio-Sakwa.

The Tucson non-profit, Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse, offers an array of support services for victims. They run a 24/7 multilingual hotline (520-795-4266 or 1-888-428-0101) that anyone can call to get help.

"Before the pandemic, we were getting, on average, about 20 calls per day to our hotline. During the stay-at-home order from the governor, and things of that nature, we saw those calls drop to about 14 or 15 calls per day," said Mercurio-Sakwa.

This Summer, Emerge averages 23 calls per day to their hotline. Staff want victims to know that they're not alone.

"Know that our services are all confidential. They can have the freedom to share things with us, without the worry, that it will get back to their abusive partner and potentially create additional risk for them," said Mercurio-Sakwa.

If you, or someone you love, is experiencing, or at risk of, domestic violence, click here to get help.