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Domestic Abuse, Family Disturbance Calls on the Rise

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Spending more time with family under normal circumstances is something we all strive to do in our busy, hectic lives.

However, COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place resolutions passed might prove families sometimes need time apart — especially when additional stress factors are thrown in the mix.

In the last two weeks, both the Oxford Police Department and Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department have seen an uptick in domestic disturbances and in some cases, domestic violence.

OPD Chief Jeff McCutchen said from Jan. 1 through March 31, officers responded to 11 domestic disturbance calls.

“So far this month (April), we’ve responded to eight reports and we’re only halfway through the month,” he said Wednesday.

“Initially, when the shelter-at-home went into place, we did not see a big jump,” McCutchen said. “In the last week to 10 days, we’ve seen a good spike.”

McCutchen said the longer people need to stay at home, he expects those numbers to increase.

“Domestic abuse is always an issue for a community,” he said. “But now, victims do not have a safe distance to stay away or call 911 or a friend as the abuser is potentially always around that victim.”

For some households, domestic abuse and violence is, unfortunately, something that happens year-round. However, financial problems, fears about work, children bored at home and acting out, and other “new” stressors can make even the happiest of families begin to turn on each other.

“Mental stress and anxiety start to mount if you don’t find ways to be social – whether using Facetime or Zoom – people need to set up routines, work on projects at home, anything but sit idle worrying.”

McCutchen said anyone feeling overly stressed or worried about friction at home should feel safe to call OPD.

“Even if they just need someone to talk to,” he said. “In severe cases, we can connect you with experts. And if you are a victim of domestic violence, reach out to us or a friend. And I encourage community members to touch base with friends and check on people and see how they’re doing.”

Lafayette County Sheriff Joey East said his department has also responded to more domestic disturbances, family disturbance and domestic violence cases recently.

“There’s just a lot of stress going on,” East said. “People worried about their jobs. Everyone is being laid off. They’re stuck at home with screaming kids.”

East said alcohol use has had an impact on the number of domestic disturbance calls.

“That’s a big underlining factor on a lot of the incidents,” he said. “And also other substances.”

East said he feels the longer folks are unable to return to work and school, incidents of domestic fights and violence will steadily increase.

Most calls East said are simple assault cases or where family members are getting overly aggressive; however, in some cases, the abuse and violence has been severe.

“We’ve had a couple of felony aggravated assault arrests where there is chocking involved, strangulation, people being hurled, and in those incidents, there is usually alcohol involved,” East said.

East said deputies are also dealing with an increase of people suffering from mental health issues, like anxiety attacks and depression.

“We are trying to get those people the help they need,” he said. “If someone is talking about suicide or hurting themselves or others, deputies often call in an ambulance where paramedics talk to the person and take them to get them treatment.”


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