Story By: Brandon Lewis
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The pandemic continues to impact domestic violence in Erie County.
According to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, there were 14 domestic violence homicides in Erie County in 2019. That number dropped to three in 2020. Domestic violence cases also dropped from 2,779 in 2019 to a little more than 2,000 in 2020.
Flynn believes the decline in cases may not be reflective of the actual amount. He attributes this to the bail reform laws that went into effect last year and the backlog of cases due to the pandemic.
“Those cases haven’t officially gotten in the system yet because a lot of those people are either out on warrant or their case hasn’t come around yet because of the courts being closed in 2020,” Flynn said.
Flynn says he was worried about a potential spike in cases at the height of the pandemic last year.
“My fear was with the economic downturn and people being sheltered at home, that would be a powder keg for domestic violence and thank God we did not see that,” he said.
But on the other hand the Family Justice Center, which helps people deal with domestic and family violence, has received a 74% increase in calls to their hotline since mid-March last year.
“In this pandemic, we’ve seen some of the most devastating high-risk cases in the history of the Family Justice Center,” said Mary Travers Murphy, the CEO of the Family Justice Center.
Like everything else in 2020, the Family Justice Center went virtual and found ways to offer their services online.
“We were also able to introduce language line onto the computer website. We had chat box so if somebody didn’t want to be heard talking on the phone or their computer, they can simply have a typed conversation on their keyboard with an advocate,” Murphy said.
Murphy says they hear from victims and people seeking advice who are worried about their loved ones. She predicts the Family Justice Center will continue to see an uptick in calls through the rest of the pandemic.
“Victims sure as heck don’t cause it and they’re not responsible for it. We’re going to pin the blame on the perpetrator, on the controller,” she said.