Shelter-in-place orders slow the spread of the coronavirus, but such restrictions could prove dangerous for domestic violence victims, especially in isolated rural areas, Mary Tuma


for the Texas Observer. That's because victims are being forced into increased contact with abusers while dealing with pandemic-related stresses such as job loss, lack of childcare, and more.

Nationwide, domestic violence

seems to be increasing

during the pandemic, but rural shelters say they're seeing a troubling decrease in clients. Glenna Harkness, program director at the Family Crisis Center of East Texas in Lufkin (pop. 35,510) told Tuma her shelter has seen a 60 percent drop in shelter clients since the state issued stay-at-home orders. "It’s troubling because we know there’s a need," Harkness said. "Unfortunately, it looks like victims are afraid and anxious to leave and get help. They’re hunkering down and just enduring a lot right now."

Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence, said rural domestic violence victims may recognize that it's more difficult to access legal remedies such as emergency protective orders, and that they may not feel that police can protect them, especially since law enforcement officers are trying to

arrest fewer people

to keep jails from becoming overcrowded, Tuma reports.