ANDERSON – With the statewide stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of domestic battery cases are on the rise.

Figures for emergency dispatch services in April showed there was a 12.3% increase in domestic violence calls compared to a year ago.

For the same month calls for other emergency services were down.

Hardly a day passes without an item in the police log about a domestic battery arrest.

Johna Lee, executive director of Alternatives Inc., said although the number of domestic violence cases are increasing, the number of clients at the women’s shelter has not climbed.

“People are afraid to leave their homes,” Lee said. “There is a concern about exposing themselves and their children to the virus.

“The challenge for women is the fear of the virus or staying in an abusive atmosphere,” Lee said. “We’re trying to get the word out that services are still available.”

Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said there has been an increase in domestic violence calls beyond what would be normal for this time of year.

“People are together more,” he said. “There are more issues that are causing overall stress. People are unable to go to work or to other unique places they visit to reduce the stress.”

Mellinger said the overlying issue in all domestic violence cases is anger management.

He said the Madison County Sheriff’s Department is still arresting 99% of the people accused of domestic violence.

“That hasn’t changed,” Mellinger said.

Lee said there are a lot of stress issues right now for families, including economic factors that can lead to a violent situation.

“Domestic violence is about power and control,” she said. “The abuser uses anything to gain control. The coronavirus is playing on those fears.”

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he isn’t surprised that there is an increase in domestic violence.

“People are being forced to stay close together, which can lead to frustration and aggression,” he said. “In some instances money is tight.”

Alternatives, which serves a six-county area, is only using 25% capacity because of the virus.

Alternatives, in addition to Madison County, serves Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Marion and Tipton counties.

Lee said one person or family is being housed in each of the 12 available rooms at the shelter.

Alternatives is housing three families in local hotels.

Lee said the agency is there to support the victims of domestic violence in whatever decision is made, whether to come to the shelter or stay at their homes.

“The outreach services we provide are on the increase,” she said. “Right now we’re using a lot of technology to provide help. People are now reaching out.”

Lee said there are lots of grant funds available because of COVID-19 which has helped pay for families to stay in local hotels and to get families into housing.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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