When the weather’s bad, domestic violence incidents can increase, says local officials

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By Alice Du Pont

During Thursday's day-long downpour, Maj. Shawn Wood of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office said he had to pull officers away from duties such as identifying impassable roads and checking on possible tornado touch downs to send them to answer domestic violence calls.

"I had to take officers off the road five times today to send them to respond to domestic violence calls," Wood said, shaking his head.

Deborah Lloyd, Gadsden County Refuge House coordinator, said she isn't surprised.

“Bad weather keeps you locked inside and the close proximity will cause a batterer to act a certain way. Whereas the individual will be able relieve some stress by doing something physical, bad weather makes that impossible. The weather, like what we experienced, further isolates the victim when tensions mount. In good weather the person has an escape mechanism in leaving the home when the stress begins to build. In bad weather problems escalate," said Lloyd.

Hurricanes, snow storms and other weather events that keep people in close proximity for an extended period of time is the catalyst needed when the situation is already explosive. For instance, Lloyd said, a looming possible evacuation is a stress builder.

"There is a certain amount of fear there about losing possessions. Fear brings out the worst. Add to that the lack of resources, as in possibly going to a shelter or helplessness people experience when they cannot control what is happening round them. These things set off a batterer," she said.

The number of domestic violence cases has increased in Gadsden County just as in the rest of the nation, according to Lloyd.

She has noticed a marked increase in the number of women seeking counseling and in the number of incidents reported in recent months.

"Hard economic times and bad weather are not the reasons that batterers batter. They may get angry if the sun comes up or if the sun goes down. The bottom line is they are batterers. But there is also another side to that. Batterers often sexually assault their partners, too," Lloyd said.

She said victims of domestic violence will report the beating but will not report the rape because they are married to the abuser or they have been in a long-term relationship and they don't see it as sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month nationwide and Lloyd said one of the areas that will be discussed during the April 18 rally on the Courthouse Square from 1 to 5 p.m. is the correlation between domestic violence and sexual assault.

"After the beating stops, rape often occurs," she said.