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Domestic violence calls have increased in Austin during the pandemic, nonprofit says

SAFE, a Central Texas nonprofit that helps survivors of violence and abuse, said it saw a 14% increase in calls, chats and texts.

AUSTIN, Texas — A study published in The Journal of General Psychology earlier this year showed an increase in "intentional male violence" Google searches. 

According to the study's findings, "Search query 'how to control your woman' resulted in 165 million Google searches post-pandemic which was an increase of 67% from 2019. Search query 'how to hit a woman so no one knows' resulted in 163 million Google searches post-pandemic, which was an increase of 31% from 2019. Search query 'I am going to kill her when she gets home' resulted in 178 million Google searches post-pandemic, which was an increase of 39% from 2019."

KVUE spoke with SAFE, a Central Texas nonprofit that helps survivors of violence and abuse, about the findings. 

"As terrible as it is, my initial reaction to some of that data is that it's not all that surprising just because it's in line with trends we've seen locally – the increase in calls, the increase in violence," said Antwon Martin with SAFE. 

Martin said, regardless, looking at the findings is upsetting. 

"To know that not only people are searching for those terms, but that there's an increase in men who are searching for those terms. And it makes me worry that the increase in violence that we've seen is only going to continue," he said. 

Martin said, locally, SAFE has seen an increase in need. 

From March 1, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021, SAFE reported a 14% increase in calls, chats and texts to its 24/7 SAFEline compared to the same timeframe the previous year.

  • March 1, 2019, to Feb. 29, 2020: The SAFEline received 19,271 total contacts
  • March 1, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021: The SAFEline received 21,964 total contacts.

SAFE reported about 75% of the contacts received are specifically related to domestic or family violence.

"Also just across many of our direct services that we offer at SAFE, we are seeing an increase in the severity of violence. So perpetrators of violence are being more aggressive," Martin said. "There are more strangulations, which is a good indicator of lethality, which is really scary. There are more serious threats, threats involving guns. That's just become more common since the pandemic started."

Martin said there isn't hard data on the gender of the offenders. However, he said about 71% of people SAFE serves identify as women. 

"But we need to keep in mind that violence and abuse can affect anyone, regardless of gender. But, overwhelmingly, intimate partner violence is of men abusing women," Martin said. "And it's been on the rise since the pandemic started."

If you or someone you know needs help, SAFE has a 24-hour SAFEline. People can call, text or use the online chat option. Call 512-267-SAFE (7233), text 737-888-7233 or chat at safeaustin.org/chat.

WATCH: 251 children died from child abuse in Texas during 2020


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