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ND Support Group: Domestic Violence Likely to Increase During Pandemic

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020   

FARGO, N.D. -- Groups that support victims of domestic violence worry that more cases will arise as families hunker down during the pandemic. Despite health guidelines to stay home, one North Dakota group says it's important to reach out if violence is an issue.

The Fargo-based YWCA for Cass and Clay Counties is the largest emergency shelter for women and children in the state. Its chief executive, Erin Prochnow, said that when a family with a volatile history is forced to be together in a stressful situation, there's a big risk of more problems occurring.

"When you're confined in smaller spaces," she said, "I think there's no question that that power structure can continue on and escalate quickly."

Prochnow said her group already had seen a 13% increase in people being served since the start of the year. While her agency has carried out protocols to protect staff and clients from the coronavirus, she said, she is urging victims in a threatening situation to not hesitate to call for help and get out of their home.

Prochnow said she's worried about how the pandemic will affect her organization's ability to help clients, adding that it already has forced them to scale back certain fundraising efforts and in-kind donations also have decreased.

"Toothpaste and bread and toilet paper are things that aren't coming through our doors right now," she said, "so we're needing to go out and purchase those things -- while, at the same time, if someone's paycheck's been cut, their ability to be helpful at this time is also lessened."

Despite challenges, Prochnow said, the agency will do everything it can to assist women and children in need of services. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is another resource, at 800-799-7233.

The YWCA's help information is online at ywcacassclay.org.


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