Calling for help is harder in isolation, domestic abuse survivor says

The DAIS helpline offers free and confidential services to domestic abuse victims.
The DAIS helpline offers free and confidential services to domestic abuse victims.(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 10:42 PM CDT
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Local experts believe victims of domestic violence cases are finding it harder to call for help, with more time spent at home with batterers.

“Isolation is the prerequisite for abusive love,” Nela Kalic, a domestic abuse survivor and public speaker, said. “That’s how abusers operate.”

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) in Dane County helps people in situations Kalic was once in.

Shannon Barry, the executive director of DAIS, said she expected a high number of calls to the general helpline since the Safer at Home order has gone into effect. She explained, “The fact that people are isolated with the batterers in their homes, the fact that families are feeling a lot of economic stress and individuals are feeling a lot of economic stress right now-- would lead us to believe that domestic violence is going to start escalating.”

Barry said in the last economic recession of 2008, calls to the helpline jumped 108 percent.

However, DAIS has not received as many calls as anticipated. A supervisor of the Forensic Nurse Porgram at UnityPoint Health – Meriter also says the hospital has seen fewer patients of domestic abuse than typical.

Madison Police did not immediately respond to NBC15’s requests for recent domestic abuse caller volume.

Experts claim the reason for fewer-than-anticipated calls for help is that victims are unable to make the calls while in isolation.

Kalic was able to leave her abusive ex-husband, after receiving help from services like DAIS. She agrees with experts, saying, “I don’t know that I would have the same liberties if he [my ex-husband] was trapped with me in the same house 24-7.”

Barry says she’s concerned that waiting it out can lead to lethal outcomes.

Both Kalic and Barry point to how important it is for family, friends and neighbors to reach out to victims or potential victims. They say creating safety plans, such as agreeing on a code word or symbol, is vital to help victims in times of trouble.

The DAIS 24-hour helpline is 608-251-4445. Services are free and confidential.