OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - During the pandemic, domestic violence incidents rose in the U.S. by more than 8%, according to an analysis by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.
Preparations are underway for the new Family Empowerment Program at the Child Saving Institute. They have partnered with the Women's Center for Advancement to help families process their trauma.
“We are going to be cautious and have separate classes for moms or dads for this program because of the sensitivity of taking a class with someone who looks like your abuser," said Jana Habrock, Director of Prevention Services, Child Saving Institute.
Incidents reported from police logs, domestic violence crime reports, health records and emergency hotlines were all analyzed and noted an increase in child abuse as well as intimate partner abuse since COVID-19.
Diana Hernandez, the lead case manager at the Child Saving Institute, cautions that "If someone comes to you with a case of domestic violence, believe them, help them and assist them in looking for resources."
Next year, the Child Saving Institute will be celebrating 130 years of helping Omaha families. Their newest program brings them up to 16 programs and they are excited to get started, helping families of domestic violence.
"We have often seen kids who have witnessed domestic violence having behavior challenges, [like] managing emotions and having a lot of anger," continues Habrock.
Even for adults, violence in any form is hard to process, so for a child, it can be even more traumatic.
Habrock adds, "For young children whose brains are still developing that fight, or flight mechanism, is still developing. When kids aren’t feeling safe, they are going to do lots of things to try and be safe. They will take charge. They sometimes make sure their siblings are safe so lots of behaviors."
Despite the rise, domestic violence cases continue to be under-reported.
"I think sometimes people are afraid to say something because they think the state will come in and remove children from the home and that is not always the case. That is what they try and do as a last resort," said Hernandez.
A unique feature of the program is that children will be involved in the classes with the non-abusive parent and together they will learn processing skills, coping mechanisms and ways to rise above the trauma.
“We have also witnessed kids being angry with their non-abusive parent because they see them not being able to keep themselves safe and that is the view from the child. The parent is probably trying to do everything to keep them safe," says Habrock.
The program is free and geared toward kids aged 4-13 years of age. The program kicks off in April but you can sign up now.