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Hello Idaho: Combating domestic violence

Domestic abuse calls to police rose 4% in 2020.

BOISE, Idaho — Domestic violence is any physical, mental, or sexual abuse inflicted on someone living in the same household as their abuser. 

According to Optum Idaho's Dr. Julie Wood, domestic violence was already a significant problem in Idaho before the pandemic started, but the isolation of the last year has made things worse. 

Domestic abuse calls to police rose 4% in 2020. In addition, the Women’s and Children’s Alliance did four emergency intakes in 2019 while in 2020, there were 19.

"There were about 1,000 more calls to report domestic violence during that time period," Wood said. "When we look at these numbers they’re probably just the tip of the iceberg. A number of people are afraid to report or don’t report and therefore we don’t really have actual accurate data.”

Wood said both women and men can be victims of abuse by their partner or family member. There are several signs to watch out for if you think a friend might be in a violent situation, she said. 

“Look for signs of extreme jealousy, somebody that just has a hard time with you being with friends or family. They may be very insulting, demeaning, belittling in private but also in public. Domestic violence can be emotional, psychological, as well as physical and each of these components can be equally bad," she said. "The one consistent factor that we look at is that individual that is abusive really tries to maintain control or power over the relationship and by doing so, they feel better and try to make you feel worse.”

According to Wood, one out of every four homicides in the state is linked to domestic violence. She said calling 911 is always the safest bet if you fear someone is in immediate danger. But there are other ways to help someone get out of an abusive or controlling relationship, she said.

"It’s really difficult for people to come forward, but if you listen and show that you care and you’re not judging them and making them feel worse about themselves or the situation, that can be really helpful," she said. "Next, don’t pressure someone to leave their relationship. Again there are multiple factors why individuals stay, but having that support, validating them, and offering comfort can be really reassuring. Let them know you’re there to listen, your conversations with them are confidential, and that you will help and provide resources as you can.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the  Women’s and Children’s Alliance at 208-343-7025 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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