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COVID-19 shutdown led to spike in domestic violence in Lexington County

State - 9/24/2020

Sep. 24--Lexington County has seen a big spike in domestic violence cases this year, due in part to an extended shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first eight months of 2020, the number of domestic violence cases in the county rose 38% compared to the same period in 2019, Deputy Solicitor Al Eargle told Lexington County Council on Tuesday.

In the same period, the number of those cases resolved in the court system dropped 28%, Eargle said, partly because courts were shut down earlier in the pandemic.

The 11th Circuit Solicitor's Office was requesting county approval for a grant that pays for the office's victims services provider, which Eargle said was key to successfully prosecuting domestic violence cases.

Agencies that respond to domestic abuse cases reported a spike in calls earlier this year, which many attributed to stay-home orders that required many people to spend more time in close quarters with abusive partners, with less ability to avoid potentially violent confrontations.

"The pandemic has had a major impact on domestic violence charges," Eargle said.

The latest figure comes after the Lexington County Sheriff's Department actually reported a slight decrease in domestic violence-related calls for March and April, according to previous reporting by The State, even as other calls for service in the county went up during that time.

"When Gov. McMaster's 'work or home' order went into effect, we were prepared for civil disputes, domestic violence and mental health-related calls to be prominent among our calls for service. It has been different for everyone and we know it hasn't been easy," Lexington Sheriff Jay Koon told The State in April.

"We've taken steps to respond to those type calls we knew were coming and continue the work we do every day to keep Lexington County safe," Koon said.

The counseling service Sistercare reported a spike in domestic abuse calls early in the coronavirus shutdown, telling The State its call centers serving the county were overwhelmed.

Sistercare Executive Director Nancy Barton said at the time she believed abuse victims were reluctant to report abuse to the police, adding that many of Sistercare's callers struggled to make their calls out of earshot of their abusers.

The strain could increase next year. Eargle told county council members the federal grant paying for victims service has been cut by 23% this year, and he was warned this would be the last year grant money is available.

Lexington County's justice committee approved $19,608 in local money to match the $37,478 in federal funds. Eargle told council members he expects the solicitor's office will ask for the full amount of the grant from local sources next year.

The 11th Circuit Solicitor's Office also serves Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties.

To contact Sistercare's 24 hour domestic violence crisis line call 803-765-9428 or visit


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