MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The Morris County Board of Freeholders has proclaimed October 2020 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, urging the public to be more vigilant in light of expert reports that pandemic-driven social distancing has inadvertently closed channels of detecting abuse.
Domestic violence and child abuse have become a major concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Jersey Attorney General noted earlier this year that, while reports of abuse to police and calls to hot-lines are actually down, experts and authorities contend it is only because victims have become further isolated.
“Abuse is often not reported by the victims, but by co-workers, school officials or friends and family the victims encounter outside the home,” said Freeholder Kathryn DeFillippo, the board’s human service liaison. “During times of natural disasters and national emergencies, history has indicated that domestic violence increases substantially. But during those periods, people are not interacting with co-workers, school authorities, friends and family outside the home.”
The proclamation, approved last week by the board during a virtual public meeting, was delivered to Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS) President and CEO Diane Williams, whose agency also oversees the Family Justice Center located at the Morris County complex in Morristown. She joined the virtual meeting, explaining the phenomenon created by the pandemic.
“Our calls just dropped … and we knew domestic violence didn’t just disappear. It went underground a little further,” said Williams, adding that JBWS responded by intensifying its outreach and community presence, and eventually connected with 210 new clients.
“We are eternally grateful for the continued support from the community, especially the freeholders, the county and all of our partners. Thank you so much for providing this additional awareness and supporting the work that we do,” Williams said.
Also attending the virtual meeting were Morris County Sheriff James Gannon and retiring Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp.