“It’s not just violence, it’s about power and control,” Bryce Lancaster said.
Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse has been helping record numbers of locals in need since March, but with October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CAPSA is working to increase outreach even more.
“It’s one of the things that most people don’t want to realize how often it happens,” said James Boyd, CAPSA’s spokesperson. “They don’t want to recognize that it’s happening to friends and family as a neighbor.”
In Utah, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience abuse at the hands of a partner.
CAPSA helped more than 320 people escaping abusive situations in 2019, but this year will likely surpass that number.
In June, CAPSA’s shelter saw a record-breaking 47 individuals in one week. In August, it helped 70.
From March through August, the shelter was used 42% more than the same time in 2019, and the number of clients helped outside the shelter — whether through therapy sessions or casework situations — has also increased.
Calls to CAPSA’s 24-hour crisis line are up 110% from last year at this time, nearly double the number of calls each month as was seen in 2019.
Lancaster, CAPSA’s service awareness educator, told the Logan Municipal Council on Tuesday that the pandemic-fueled increase is “the nature of abuse.”
“It is a function of power and control,” Lancaster said. “And we’ve seen as there’s economic strife, such as with the coronavirus and as people lose a sense of control in their lives, they tend to take that out in other ways, or search for that in other ways, which is why we see spikes in abuse.”
Boyd added that the pandemic led to more people needing immediate help as isolation and distancing measures left individuals and families trapped at home with their abusers.
“We are continuing to grow just to match the demand that we’re seeing from our community,” he said. “Sadly, the support people need keeps increasing as our community grows, but more people are more at risk, too.”
The evidence of physical and sexual abuse is often visual. But subtle forms, such as verbal, emotional or psychological abuse often take longer to heal, Boyd added.
And financial control, such as restricting access to finances and resources, is often hard to identify from outside the relationship.
“Many times, our clients, they don’t have their own money,” Boyd said. “They don’t have access to a job. They have been sabotaged. So they don’t have the means to be able to escape on their own. … It’s hard to pay rent for $1,200 a month when you are making minimum wage. And so it is a challenge we’re always working on.”
That’s where CAPSA’s resources come in, he added, “whether that’s finding a job or getting access to an account, helping to learn to budget.”
In addition to the main campus and hotel vouchers used to help spread out clients during the pandemic, CAPSA has been securing property to house those without credit scores that would qualify an individual for other housing opportunities.
Boyd and Lancaster said while it’s been a challenge to adapt to social distancing measures, there have been benefits, as well — such as increased telehealth availability for individuals who didn’t have access to transportation.
In addition to the challenges of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the cost to keep the zero-turnaway shelter has increased while fundraising opportunities have plummeted. Thanks to CARES Act funding and community support, there have been no cuts to services.
But Boyd said more is needed to keep with the new demand he deems “the new normal.”
“We need the support from our community to help make extraordinary donations to support us and to keep open doors.”
Lancaster added it’s important for everyone to familiarize themselves with the signs of abuse and know what resources are available.
“Because the nature of abusive relationships is that control of their life has been taken away, the best thing you can do is just give them that option so that they can choose to take it,” he said. “Whether it’s having a phone number or saying, ‘You know, I’m not trying to assume but I’m just worried about you. And maybe you should look into this.’”
Leaving the power of choice to the individual is crucial for healing, but Boyd said, “We’re there to help, or there to listen. It’s about being available and being willing to support them when the right time comes.”
CAPSA offers trainings and conferences (virtually, for the time being) to businesses, religious congregations and schools throughout the valley.
For immediate assistance, help is available at the 24-hour crisis line, (435)753-2300.