First Step records uptick in domestic violence survivors seeking help during pandemic

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The correlation between domestic violence and sexual assault and COVID-19 has shown an upward trend ever since sheltering in place became optional.

Wichita County nonprofit, First Step, Inc. has seen this first hand.

Officials said it might’ve been because victims were stuck at home with their abusers or possibly they didn’t know resources were still available.

Either way, they said it’s a sad reality, but a good thing more are seeking help.

“They were able to have that chance to break free and get ahold of us,” First Step, Inc. law enforcement advocate Alan Weaver said.

“Being home and being ordered to stay at home is not always safe for everybody,” First Step, Inc. executive director Michelle Turnbow said.

Turnbow is a victim herself and said she can imagine what the stay-at-home order did to these victims.

“I think about the times like at Christmas, they were the most difficult times and in the summertime and so this is frightening to me,” Turnbow said.

The nonprofit that provides free and confidential services for victims is now facing an uptick in hotline calls and an increase of those in immediate danger needing a way out.

With 32 beds, First Step’s safe house is full.

“We will not close our doors,” First Step, Inc. resident care supervisor Jessica Cribbs said. “If you are in need, we will always try and accommodate that need, we will try to find space, we will move people around if we have to we will get you out of that abusive situation.”

Weaver helps with protective orders and he’s gotten more calls about filing for those orders while also helping bridge the gap when a victim isn’t comfortable around the police.

“We have a very good relationship with the police department,” Weaver said. “For some it’s a trusting issue, for others, they feel like if nothing is done, the police leave, they’re left there alone again with the offender.”

With an increase in domestic violence calls, First Step is just glad to know the number of survivors seeking help is going up too.

As finances increase for the organization, donations have decreased.

They can always use things like cleaning supplies, clothing, toiletries and monetary donations.

If you want to help click here.

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