Tara Bone, contributing writer

The closure of schools, restaurants, stores, and businesses since mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been a challenging adjustment for most people, but for those living in an abusive relationship, being confined to home is a nightmare.

Unfortunately, world and national experts have recorded an alarming increase in domestic abuse cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to James Boyd of CAPSA, a nonprofit domestic violence, sexual abuse, and rape recovery center that serves Cache Valley and the Bear Lake area, Cache Valley is following that trend.

During March and April 2020, CAPSA experienced a 122% increase in crisis calls to its 24-hour support line compared to the same months in 2019. In fact, all CAPSA services, including therapy services, casework sessions, and emergency shelter help increased. All CAPSA services are free and confidential for anyone who needs help.

James says in his experience, many in Cache Valley assume domestic violence and sexual abuse don’t happen in our community, but they do. He says nationally, one in four women will suffer from domestic abuse, and in Utah, that figure is higher: One in three Utah women will suffer abuse.

“It’s happening all around us, but we don’t talk about it; there’s a stigma around abuse and many feel ashamed,” James said. “It can happen to anyone we know.”

James encourages open dialogue about abuse and a focus on education. Education is a key part of CAPSA’s ultimate goal of ending domestic violence in our community. CAPSA works with human resource directors and last year presented 600 workshops to local high schools about healthy relationships. But in the current pandemic, victims need help now.

A May 4, 2020 letter from Jill Anderson, CAPSA executive director, highlighted how the pandemic has created the perfect storm for an escalation of abuse and how CAPSA has had to use new methods to help victims in an environment of social distancing.

“We know domestic violence has increased during this crisis; with social distancing, many victims are now trapped with their abusers and increased fear and anxiety often trigger escalated abuse,” Jill said. “Although we are a nonprofit these changes have incurred significant costs, such as implemented technology and expanded services to ensure individuals and families have a safe place to escape abuse and are able to heal from the associated trauma.”

CAPSA has moved all casework and clinical therapy to phone and online sessions using encrypted, or secure video conferencing. Jill says the transition has been smooth, but hasn’t been without additional cost. Another side effect of social distancing is the need to keep those who need emergency shelter safe from COVID-19, so new shelter clients stay in a hotel for up to seven days for isolation and observation of symptoms.

These services all need funds, but many fundraising events have been canceled or postponed, and future fundraising efforts will be difficult. In the face of increased demand, the need for donations has never been greater.

“Think of a real person out there who is trapped and needs help,” Jim said. “A $60 donation could give someone a safe night.”

Jill and the CAPSA team are asking community members to help share CAPSA’s message by following CAPSA on Facebook and liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts because someone in your social network may need to see their message. They’re also asking for donations to ensure core programs remain available to those who need help.

HOW TO HELP: Donate to CAPSA at capsa.org/donate or by mail at PO Box 3617, Logan UT 84323. Supporters can also create a Facebook Fundraiser for CAPSA and encourage friends and family to donate. Facebook fundraisers can be set up at FB.com/pg/CAPSAservices/fundraisers