While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in a lot of people — from our brave frontline heroes working to save as many lives as possible to those doing what they can to support them — the side effects of the pandemic have also exacerbated some of the worst elements of our society.

The pandemic forced people to stay in their homes. It also shut down our courts and put millions of people in economic peril. That combination was a breeding ground for making the domestic violence problem worse.

Georgia’s domestic violence hotline has seen a 15% uptick in calls during the pandemic. Locally, Georgia Legal Services, which has a project dedicated to helping victims who may not have the financial means to get out of dangerous situations, has seen a 35% to 40% increase in phone calls.

The pandemic has forced people to be together more, which can fray the fabric of relationships. Pile on economic uncertainty, jobs lost and just the general fear that comes with living in a pandemic, and you have a volatile recipe for too many.

While the pandemic has magnified the problem, domestic violence has for too long been a black eye on our society. And the problem goes beyond just physical violence. It also includes sexual violence, threats, economic restriction and emotional abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million adults annually in the U.S. experience some form of domestic violence. One out of four women and one out of 10 men will experience physical violence, sexual violence or stalking from an intimate partner that leads to constant safety concerns, post-traumatic stress disorder and/or other issues that victims can spend a lifetime battling.

If you don’t have the economic means for help, reach out to Georgia Legal Services at 1-800-GLSPLAW. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for free and confidential help. We also encourage everyone to stay alert for signs of abuse from friends and family. You can find a list of troubling signs at https://ncadv.org/signs-of-abuse.

If you are in an abusive relationship, please know that there are still organizations and people out there to help you. Even during a pandemic, you do not have to stay with a partner who physically, emotionally or sexually abuses you. No one — not even a spouse or family member — has the right to do such horrible things.

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