Domestic violence rising as isolating at home adds stress

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez responded to a scene in northeast Harris County Tuesday, he had a familiar feeling of dread.

Investigators say three young children led them to their mother's body.

Her husband is now charged with murder.

"It's personal for me because it's something I see far too often in our community. We know it's one of the most dangerous types of calls for law enforcement to respond to," the sheriff explained. "It was actually the first assignment that I ever had in law enforcement, and I learned a great deal about the cycle of violence."

As days of social distancing turn into weeks and possibly months, the Houston Area Women's Center remains open.

"Home is not a safe place for everyone, and this kind of isolation can really compound the violence that people experience," explained HAWC CEO Emilee Whitehurst.

HAWC employees are working remotely, taking in more than 80 calls a day.

About half the calls come from those who need shelter immediately.

"Domestic violence is fundamentally a dynamic of power and control, and it's exacerbated by stress and isolation in this case," Whitehurst said.

Situations often escalate quickly with added stresses.

"After Harvey, we saw a 45 percent spike in mortality rate in homicide in domestic violence," Whitehurst said. "And we definitely attribute that to the stresses and strains of that flood, so my real concern is that we'll see something like that again here."

"The old myth used to be that's something between husband and wife or behind closed doors. It's against the law, we will prosecute you. We're still out there working and protecting people," Sheriff Gonzalez explained. "I care, we care as a community, and we're trying to inform and educate our community."

If you need help, contact the Houston Area Women's Center.
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