“With people staying home for such a long time we all knew that abuse in general would be on the rise and people wouldn’t be able to report it,” said Michelle James.
“Now that some of the restrictions are lifting a little bit we are seeing a lot of calls come in.”
James is a victim advocate for Family Crisis Centers. She serves Crawford, Ida and Monona counties.
She said the organization is making a concerted effort at present to reach out to those who may have been victims of domestic abuse during the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Reports of abuse are starting to jump and we really want to make sure that we’re reaching anybody that needs help,” she said. “Our mission is to serve all victims and survivors of domestic violence.”
Domestic violence is an act of exerting power and control over another person, she said.
When people hear the term “domestic violence” they often think of two things: physical violence and a female victim.
“But that’s not always the case,” she said. “Domestic violence comes in different forms, whether it’s physical, financial or emotional. Those also include things such as threats, stalking, intimidation, put-downs and other acts along those lines.”
Men also suffer from domestic violence, she said.
“Research shows that one in four men have experienced some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner,” James said.
“Men are less likely to report domestic violence due to challenges such as gender norms and the stereotype that exists that men don’t express themselves about fear and emotions.”
Men often feel emasculated and weak for not being able to stop abuse, she said.
“They also fear not being believed or not being taken seriously,” James said.
“Family Crisis Centers has served male survivors that have expressed that they were discouraged to talk about their stories and their situations.”
Men are sometimes told they are overreacting when they talk to friends or family about abuse that is taking place.
“Then they diminish their own abuse and believe they are not going to be believed by anybody else,” James said.
“It’s important for everyone to understand that violence and abuse are not gender specific.” Violence and abuse don’t discriminate based on gender, income, social status or anything else, she said.
“We want to let men know that we are here and we believe them,” James said.
“We don’t judge or discriminate. We serve every survivor, whether male or female, with the same open mind.”
Abuse that goes unreported could result in more serious consequences as the abuse continues, she said.
“We believe everybody deserves to lead a life free from violence,” she said. “We’re here to make sure that the survivors of domestic violence are being heard.”
Family Crisis Centers tailors services to the needs of individual victims.
“What might be best for one isn’t always best for everyone,” James said. “We listen to their concerns and we help weigh the options of every decision. We listen. We don’t force our opinions or our beliefs on anybody else.”
Family Crisis Centers is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Their services are free and confidential.
“We’re always here to take calls,” James said.
Individuals in need of assistance may contact Family Crisis Centers at 800-382-5603 or by texting Iowahelp to 20121.
The organization’s website is familycrisiscenters.org.