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Stay-at-home order may stifle domestic violence reporting, sheriff fears

FULTON, Mo. (KMIZ)

With a statewide stay-at-home order in effect for Missouri, some law enforcement officials say they're receiving a higher amount of domestic violence calls, others say there's been no noticeable change and others still say the lack of reports could indicate a more concerning phenomenon.

"I'm afraid we're not going to see the domestic violence report curve until after the COVID-19 situation is over," Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said. "So many times with domestic violence situations we see that the abuser has control over the victim. Many times, the victim is isolated and can't get away from their abuser."

Now that isolation is part of the strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19, Chism said he's worried about domestic or sexual violence going unreported.

"Because of the stay-at-home order, our victims are more isolated and in more contact with their abusers than they've ever been," Chism said.

"I'm very concerned about our victims here in Callaway County that simply just don't feel safe right now to make that report, to get themselves in a better situation," Chism said. "Unfortunately, when victims aren't able to make a report, many times the situation just gets worse."

Callaway County crime data show that domestic violence investigations have steadily increased over the last five years and that the record number of cases in 2020 cannot necessarily be attributed to the coronavirus' effect on households.

Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley told ABC 17 News his department has seen an increase in domestic violence calls since the stay-at-home order took effect. Meanwhile, Cole County prosecutor Locke Thompson said his office hasn't seen a significant increase in such cases.

A sergeant with the Boone County Sheriff's Department said he was not aware of an uptick in domestic violence reports.

There are resources available to help those who are in situations involving domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis.

If you are a victim or know of someone who is a victim of domestic violence, access the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence's list of member organizations across the state.

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Joe McLean

Joe reports stories all across mid-Missouri, including our WasteBusters series of reports, and co-anchors ABC 17 News at 9 a.m. with Zara Barker.

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