• Melissa Rosales

Domestic And Sexual Assaults Rise In Washington County Due To Pandemic

Published for NET News-Nebraska's NPR and PBS Station

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Domestic and sexual assaults have increased in Washington County in eastern Nebraska since last year. Experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to the rise in cases.

Victims of sexual assault increased by 30% since last year at The Bridge, a domestic abuse treatment center for Washington, Dodge, Burt, Cuming, and Saunders counties.

Executive Director Suzanne Smith believes the isolation and financial challenges caused by the pandemic contributed to the rise in victims.

“They're worried if they leave the abuse, how they're going to take care of themselves and their kids financially. And so the economic, financial piece that's been a part of the pandemic has just put them in a place that has made them actually more vulnerable," she said. "Many people are not leaving the abuse because they don't have the finances to do it.”

Smith said there were 79 victims from Washington County with 83 children since 2020.

Detective Sgt. Brian Beckman said aggravated assaults doubled while domestic assaults increased by 10 in 2020 compared to the previous year. In his opinion, if people are forced to be together but have a fight, they can’t leave like they usually could.

“I think in this pandemic, people felt that they needed to be around the other one more, which, you know, can obviously cause serious issues,” he said.

Smith and Beckman encourage survivors to contact The Bridge or other similar agencies in their area, including law enforcement, for support.

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