Nevada NewsMakers

News - May 6, 2020 - by Ray Hagar

Domestic abuse and child abuse appear to be soaring during the coronavirus' stay-at-home orders, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said on Nevada Newsmakers.

"In regards to domestic violence, I know that calls to our local call centers that help with domestic-violence victims have skyrocketed," Hicks told host Sam Shad on Wednesday's show. "And so I am very concerned about domestic violence, about people being locked in their homes together and the pressure that can be exhibited by abusers."

Some have called it, "the crisis within the crisis,' in news reports.

Six months of the lock-down could lead to 31 million more cases of domestic violence worldwide, according to a recently-release report from the United Nations. The report was issued from London in late April where that city's Metropolitan Police said it has responded to more than 400,000 domestic-violence cases in the first six weeks of the lock-down.

Hicks did not cite any local statistics although the Reno Gazette-Journal reported last month that the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Washoe County saw a 64 percent increase in calls to its 24-hour hotline over the past month.

"I think those things are going to increase and I'm worried about that," Hicks said.

Yet there is some good news about the stay-at-home order, Hicks said.

"Crime, in general, is down," he said. "And it is really common sense, if you think about it. Residential burglaries are down because people are home. Crime that typically comes from social gatherings, like bars and nightclubs, of course, down, because those are all closed. And that is a positive thing, I guess if you have to look for positives in this situation."

Recent crime reports, however, concern Hicks.

"Domestic violence, it hasn't gone up as far as arrests yet, but it hasn't gone down, consistent with any of the others and that is significant," Hicks said.

Child abuse was a major problem in Washoe County before the stay-at-home order was issued, Hicks said. Under lock-down, children have few people to talk to about abuse, he added.

"Prior to all of this, there was a level of child sexual abuse and physical abuse in our community that few people know," Hicks said. "I think most people would be shocked at how high the numbers are. But now, we have children at home and typically the abusers in those types of cases are family members or close friends.

"So they are home together and the children don't have the opportunity to disclose the abuse," Hicks said. "Because often times in those cases, abuses will be disclosed to a teacher, to a counselor, to a friend and those outlets are not there. And so, I'm very concerned about those vulnerable victims.

"I hope I'm wrong and I don't know if we will see the impact from it until quite some time down the road," Hicks said. "But that is something I hope everybody is being extra cautious of and aware of and if they see something that doesn't seen right, to be sure and look into it."