FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) – As Action 2 News has reported, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs in Appleton says it served 1,935 clients through September of this year. That’s nearly double the number of clients helped in all of 2020.

Domestic abuse shelters like Harbor House and Christine Ann in Oshkosh both say they are seeing an increase in the number of clients they serve. While the shelters like to attribute that increase to people feeling more comfortable coming forward and seeking help, they know the pandemic played a big role in what’s happening.

According to Amber Schroeder from Harbor House, “Being at home with your partner was stressful if you were in a healthy home, let alone if you were in as abusive home or toxic home, so we know there are impacts of COVID and there continues to be fallout from that.”

The incidents in Brown County are tragic reminders about how domestic violence can escalate.

“A lot of people come in, for services and say, well it’s not bad enough because it wasn’t physical. We want them to come in before it’s physical, because once it reaches that point, that’s where it can get to the point of no return, unfortunately,” says Beth Oswald from Christine Ann.

Victim advocates understand taking that first step isn’t easy. And, for many, it seems like the law isn’t on the victim’s side or the process to protect them is lengthy and cumbersome. Victim advocates agree and are working to educate legislators how the abused can be protected earlier rather than later.

Olivia Olszewski is an Empowerment Advocate at Christine Ann. She says, “Defining, what a domestic relationship is and having some consistency in that, in civil and criminal court, as well as having a broader definition of what domestic abuse actually is. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the domestic violence movement, but I think we’ve got a long way to go.”

So, while those discussions continue, victim advocates will continue to counsel clients to get them out of bad situations and keep them safe. Olszewski adds, “When we’re working with folks, we want to identify they have some sort of support system. Who would you call if you needed something in addition to law enforcement or our office? Are there other steps you can take, like changing your locks? Carrying a personal safety device, such as a personal alarm.”

Each case of domestic violence is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there’s plenty of help for people who need it.

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