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Domestic violence cases spike 48%; prosecutor calls it a worrisome trend

Child and family advocacy experts worry that cases of domestic violence and child abuse will increase as people stay cooped up under ‘stay at home' orders.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Domestic violence cases reviewed by the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office have increased more than 48 percent over the last two weeks, a spike that is being partially blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been doing warrants this whole week and most of what we’ve been seeing are domestic violence and child abuse cases,’’ Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said. “With the isolation, people are in homes and with family; we’re seeing a lot more cases.’’

Of the 134 cases reviewed by the prosecutor’s office since March 23, the majority have been for domestic violence first offense. It is a 93-day misdemeanor and includes any sort of hitting, pushing and shoving, usually with little or no injury, Becker said.

RELATED: Domestic violence agencies say stay at home order can be dangerous

He has also reviewed 16 domestic violence - second offense cases and 15 third-offense cases.

West Michigan is by no means alone. Domestic violence tied to confinement orders and pandemic anxiety has been getting more attention across the nation in recent days.

Rising tensions along with limited access to friends and relatives can help fuel domestic violence and child abuse. Coincidentally, the month of April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month.

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“It’s taking on special significance now,’’ said Jim Paparella, president and CEO of DA Blodgett – St. John’s. “We try to raise awareness around child abuse prevention, strengthening families as a community priority.’’

He, like Becker, is concerned that kids who are in an abusive home do not have ready access to teachers and other trusted adults who can provide a listening ear and an avenue for help.

RELATED: Father guilty of child abuse involving baby girl treated for 24 broken bones

“For now, kids are at home and out of school, there aren’t community eyes on children,’’ Paparella said. “And as the sun rises on society, and as these children reintegrate into society, we would expect a huge increase in reports of suspected abuse and neglect.’’

Paparella said DA Blodgett – St. John’s, which provides numerous services, including foster care and adoption, has helpful information on its website, www.dabsj.org.

“I tell parents always take a break before you break,’’ he said. "There are community resources. I would encourage any family that’s feeling the pressure, feeling the stress, to call United Way’s 2-1-1 line.’’

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