PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Officials are seeing an increase in domestic violence cases in the Tampa Bay area.
“As we’ve gone through the pandemic there’s been all sorts of stress that somebody who’s prone to commit domestic violence, you know it’s exacerbating those situations,” said Lariana Forsythe, CEO of CASA.
“We’ve already had 11 domestic violence-related homicides in Pinellas County alone this year. It is a huge issue,” she added.
That isn’t an unusual number for the county.
“If we don’t take it out of the home and we don’t talk about it as a community issue, these kinds of numbers will continue to grow,” said Forsythe.
The total number of domestic-related calls handled by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office from January 2021 until October 7 is 4,365.
In St. Petersburg, police had 2,187 domestic violence offenses last year.
“Domestic violence is often thought of as just violence and that is the legal definition of domestic violence, but the social definition really includes a lot more types of behavior,” said Forsythe.
Some behaviors that can be red flags include a pattern of power and control, isolating the victim from friends and family, financial and housing control, and control over children.
“These things happen gradually so that a victim doesn’t really understand these dynamics necessarily until all of a sudden the perpetrator has lots of control and when the victim tries to speak for themselves or exit out of the situation, that’s when it can become really, really violent,” said Forsythe.
Experts stress, domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender.
“This is something that we need to be talking about and asking for help because everyone has a right to feel safe at home,” said Forsythe.
If you need help or know someone who does, there are community resources available that can help save lives.
CASA is the official domestic violence center for Pinellas County and also one of the largest domestic violence shelters in Florida.
“CASA is one of 41 certified domestic violence organizations in the state which means that we’re by law, confidential. So you can call our outline and talk to our advocates and this is somebody who’s in a situation or somebody who’s concerned about somebody that they know,” said Forsythe.
“We also have free injunction for protection attorneys, everything we do is free. We have housing, we have all sorts of other assistance that a survivor should call in to investigate to see exactly how can we help them out of their situation,” she added.
For help you can contact:
- 24-hour domestic violence hotline: 727-895-4912
- CASA's texting hotline
- Outside of Pinellas County: 800-500-1119