FARGO — Police in parts of the Fargo-Moorhead metro are seeing a rise in domestic abuse calls as the coronavirus pandemic wears on, similar to what’s happening in other cities across the country.
While West Fargo’s domestic calls are actually down from this time last year, and Moorhead is experiencing a marginal increase, Fargo is seeing a more noticeable bump in such calls.
Fargo police recorded 34 more domestic calls for service this March compared to the previous March. Total calls were 240, up from 206 during the same time period last year.
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And, at least in early part of this month, there have been 14 more domestic calls than last April. Total calls in the first week of April were 79, compared with 65 last year.
Fargo Police Department spokesperson Jessica Schindeldecker said the department isn’t able to tell if the calls have any relation to the pandemic and people being mostly confined to their homes.
However, even with the increase in calls, fewer victims seem to be seeking help from local agencies.
Christopher Johnson, CEO of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, said that’s the consensus among similar crisis centers he’s been in contact with across North Dakota and Minnesota.
“It’s actually kind of the opposite,” he said. “It’s gotten eerily quiet.”
Johnson said RACC employees have been doing all direct services by phone from home since March 16, and kept only a skeleton crew in the office at 317 Eighth St. N., Fargo. He said working this way is not in their comfort zone.
“We put humans in front of humans. That’s a different model for us,” he said.
Johnson said he can see why fewer people might be seeking outside help, even while domestic violence calls might be up.
When someone decides to reach out to a crisis center, the potential for “lethality” in the home goes up, he said.
Women who are murdered by abusive boyfriends or husbands are usually trying to escape the relationship, he said. The stress of a pandemic only adds more anxiety to the situation.
Those in marginalized communities, including people of color, people who are homeless or who have significant mental health issues or disabilities, are especially at risk.
“When society is taxed like this, they tend to bear most of that burden,” Johnson said.
There are several ways the public can help during this time of pandemic, and in general. It’s everyone’s business to keep the community safe and report domestic abuse, he said, and men need to denounce violence against women because “staying silent is not taking a stand."
For years, responsibility has been placed on victims to advocate for themselves.
“How unfair? How about we stop abusing people? Johnson said.
Also, he advised people to check in on friends and other couples even more frequently if the home is unstable or if there’s a history of violence.
Domestic violence calls
- Fargo Police Department: 240 in March (206 in March 2019)
- Moorhead Police Department: 58 from mid-March to mid-April (55 during same time period in 2019)
- West Fargo Police Department: 34 from mid-March to mid-April (43 during same time period in 2019)