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Hotline Reports More Violent Domestic Assaults, Rape During COVID Shutdown

TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) - During two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic and sexual violence cases increased in Tompkins County, as compared to a year ago.

Advocacy Center of Tompkins County Director Heather Campbell said domestic violence calls to their hotline increased 23% over April-May, 2019.

"We also saw a significant increase, for us, in calls from adults who were sexually assaulted or raped," Campbell said.

She doesn't know if the calls were new instances of violence, or if victims called the hotline because they’re cut off from the support of friends or family. Whatever the reason, the sudden change worries Campbell.

She notes many of those calls came from the community's permanent residents. "Unfortunately, a significant percentage of sexual violence victims we typically hear from in April and May are college students," Campbell explained.

Campbell added there's also a disturbing, potentially lethal trend in the calls they received about domestic violence. They indicate more violent behavior.

"We felt like we were seeing a higher number of cases than we usually see in, in a short period of time where there was strangulation, use of threats of, use of weapons, really extreme controlling behaviors."

This worries Campbell because it’s the kind of violence that often leads to murder.

Campbell said sexual assault victims are still treated, and exams for rape kits are still done in hospital. And, Advocacy Center counselors still provide confidential support to sexual and domestic violence victims and survivors.

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic or sexual violence, call the Advocacy Center, 607-277-5000.