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Domestic-abuse reports decline in 2021 on Kauaʻi

LIHU‘E — Police data released last week showed a 17.36% decline in reported abuse of family or household members in 2021 as compared to 2020.

The Kaua‘i Police Department responded to 319 calls concerning domestic abuse in 2021, down from the 386 calls they received in 2020. They also responded to 8.07% fewer calls about domestic arguments, from 967 to 889.

KPD Capt. Rod Green speculated that this decline might have been the result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic being less severe than in 2020.

“Lockdowns and pandemic-related impacts were likely contributors that compounded factors typically associated with domestic violence, such as unemployment, stress associated with distance learning and childcare, as well as increased financial insecurity,” Green said.

“Poor coping strategies such as increased use of alcohol and other substances may have elevated the risk of domestic violence. While I am only speculating, the decrease in domestic-abuse calls this year may be a result of restrictions being lifted.”

Nationwide, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased levels of domestic violence. A review of 12 studies published by the National Commission on COVID-19 in February 2021 showed that domestic violence increased 8.1% after jurisdictions imposed pandemic-related lockdown orders.

“It is not surprising that the numbers of domestic-violence cases are trending upward nationwide,” said Acting Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Like, whose office handled domestic-violence cases in 2021

“Families are dealing with increased financial and health stressors due to the pandemic. They are also trying to navigate having their children at home for extended periods of time due to closing of schools, lack of childcare and isolation and quarantine rules,” she said.

Like stated that, while the number of cases her office handled had also declined, she doubted that this was indicative of general trends.

“Many folks do not call the police when they are dealing with conflicts at home,” Like said. “I think the decline in raw numbers is likely not an accurate representation of what is occurring, especially given the rising housing costs and other pandemic-related stress that residents are facing.”

Katie Miller, the shelter director for the YWCA Family Violence Shelter, said that there didn’t appear to be a reduction in the number of victims seeking help from her organization. YWCA operates an assessment program alongside the police department, which gives victims the opportunity to speak with the shelter after a domestic-violence call.

She described a different correlation between the amount of calls they received and the level of COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“What we’ve noticed is that it goes up and down in waves,” said Miller. “When people were quarantined at home they were unable to reach out for help because they were with their abuser at home. But when people could leave home a little more we’d get an uptick in calls.”

She was skeptical that an improving COVID-19 climate would lead to less domestic violence.

“I think there will continue to be stress in the home that will lead to more violence,” she said. “I don’t see it going away or declining.”

Those experiencing domestic violence can reach out to the shelter’s 24/7 helpline at 808-245-6362.

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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