Violence Prevention Town Hall: RI leaders urge victims to seek help

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo held a virtual town hall on Thursday to discuss the prevention of domestic and other types of violence and remind victims that help is always available.

Joined by all four members of the state’s congressional delegation and other community leaders, Raimondo talked about the reported increase in violence due to the ongoing stay-at-home order and the added strain being put on families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I hope that the people of Rhode Island will look at this panel and see how serious we are about making sure that we have a zero-tolerance policy for violence of any kind and particularly for violence in the home,” she said.

According to Womazetta Jones, the secretary of Rhode Island’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said the percentage of more severe allegations of domestic abuse increased from 17% to 20% from January to April while the percentage of more severe allegations of child neglect or maltreatment rose from roughly 75% to 82% during that same time period.

Target 12: Domestic violence 911 calls rising in RI amid COVID-19 crisis

RI State Police Col. James Manni said addressing those cases is a priority for state police and the Department of Public Safety.

“We have assigned the subject matter experts to handle and measure these statistics,” he said.

The panel also discussed how overall, reports of child and elder abuse have decreased simply because they don’t have the same number of eyes on these vulnerable populations as they did before. Jones said many of those reports come from teachers and other staff members at schools, which are currently closed due to the pandemic, and doctors, which people are seeing less frequently for the same reason.

“If you see something, please say something,” Office of Healthy Aging Director Rose Jones urged, adding that victims can file a report on the agency’s website.

Below is a list of other resources for victims of abuse:

  • For elder abuse, call (401) 462-0555
  • For child abuse, call 1800-RI-CHILD
  • For victims of crime, call 1-800-494-8100
  • If you are in immediate danger, call or text 911

A nationwide text crisis line is also available 24/7 at 741-741, which will immediately connect you to a crisis counselor.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced his office will be launching a new database in the coming weeks which will provide updates and information on cases and allow victims, advocates, the courts and his office to communicate in real time.

“I think it’s going to be a real game-changer,” Neronha said Thursday. “When you think that last year we did 6,500 felony cases, simply managing all the information and staying in touch with victims in that context can be very difficult.”

Raimondo also issued a reminder about the Crime Victims Compensation Program, which offers emergency funding to help victims of violent crime relocate. Apply online or by calling (401) 462-7655.

List: Support groups available during COVID-19 crisis »

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