After a sharp rise in domestic violence calls since the beginning of the pandemic, the city of Tempe announced it will allocate $4 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security and Victims of Crime Act funds to expand victim services, hoping to reach more of the thousands of Tempe residents who experience domestic violence yearly.
Around half of the money will be invested in youth specialists in schools, increased counseling and transitional housing, according to the press release. The other half will support services provided by CARE 7, the city’s crisis response program which assists victims of crime in navigating the justice system and regaining security.
Kristen Scharlau, CARE 7 manager, said the grant will enable the program to purchase fully furnished and stocked housing units used exclusively to house clients like victims of domestic violence for up to 90 days.
“We've been able to assess … from the crisis through all the way through to healing,” Scharlau said. “It's really exciting to be able to offer that continuum of services for victims of crime and domestic violence.”
According to the press release, domestic violence calls to Tempe police and CARE 7 have risen during the pandemic. Scharlau said CARE 7 has seen the victims they assist in domestic violence cases increase by about 50% since the beginning of the pandemic.
CARE 7 typically handles 1,200 to 1,400 cases per quarter, but since the pandemic, that number has reached 1,500 to 1,600, Scharlau said.
Although the group doesn’t widely track how many of its clients are college students, Scharlau said based on the number of their clients within college age, the percentage of their clients who are college students is likely “in the double digits.”
“For a lot of students, going away to college is a fresh start and an escape from a family that is dysfunctional,” Scharlau said. “When ASU went to online learning, many of them had no choice but to move back to their families. And what we know about trauma is, when you get away from it, it's easy to recover quickly, when you're exposed to it again, you immediately go back to where you were.”
Scharlau said the city works with ASU’s victim services to connect off-campus students experiencing domestic violence with the proper resources. Even so, she wonders how many students are going without.
Several other ASU student-run organizations like the Alpha Phi Gamma sorority work to raise awareness about domestic violence among students. Dannielle Tumpap, a sophomore studying psychology and Alpha Phi Gamma's sisterhood and co-philanthropy chair, said many students who are victims of domestic violence don’t realize it and don’t get help.
According to Live Well @ ASU, in a spring 2019 survey, 13.6% of female students reported they had experienced intimate partner abuse in the last year.
“I feel like a lot of … people who just aren't aware might try to minimize their experience or write it off because they either see it as something that they can't get help for or maybe even people think that they might not be able to find any other people or another relationship outside of the toxic one that they have,” Tumpap said.
According to Jill Messing, director of the Office of Gender-Based Violence, it is important to be conscious of how you are being treated in relationships — not just physically, but mentally, too. She said if something doesn’t feel right, there are numerous resources there to help.
“Even if you don't know what it is you want from that help, it's important to kind of reach out and start thinking about it,” Messing said.
Resources dedicated to assisting students who have experienced domestic violence include the Sun Devil Support Network, where students can seek support and information about resources from other students, the Sun Devil Movement for Violence Prevention and EMPACT's 24-hour crisis hotline.