Parts of metro Atlanta seeing dramatic spikes in domestic violence amid pandemic

Parts of metro seeing dramatic spike in domestic violence

ATLANTA — As domestic violence cases remain a concern during COVID-19 restrictions, we are a taking a look at how the lockdown affected the number of incidents in many Metro Atlanta jurisdictions.

One of the most violent cases involved an estranged husband brutally attacking a woman and killing a stranger in early May.

“I sat there and endured a beating for a couple of hours,” said Sumareya Cooper. “I was ready to die, honestly.”

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Cooper is still physically wounded and emotionally scarred from the night her estranged husband held her hostage and attacked her in Locust Grove on May 9. Before Terrence Scott entered the home to attack her, Locust Grove Police say that he shot and killed a Cobb County attorney Rajesh Mehta, who had driven him from Fulton County to the house.

“Had I not run for my life, I definitely would have lost my life,” said Cooper.

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Now she worries about those who continue to be victims during the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I instantly thought, ‘Man what about the women and children who are left at home, stuck to that abuse?’” she said.

Reports of domestic violence have actually remained relatively steady in the metro Atlanta counties that provided data since the lockdowns began in March.

But in Atlanta, serious domestic crime reports reached startling peaks in April. During the week of April 12, the Atlanta Police Department saw cases jump by more than 400 percent compared to the same week last year. Between April 12 and April 25, there were 46 reports of domestic crime compared to 14 during the same time period in 2019. Since then, reports have been on the decline, with a 32% drop in May, but remain up 17% over a three month span, according to publicly available data.

“We have seen trends that have caused concern,” said Nancy Friauf, the president of Partnership Against Domestic Violence. “We’ve seen an increase in the level of violence that the survivors who call us have experienced.”

In Gwinnett County, their reports of domestic violence are down slightly. In Henry County the number of cases are nearly the same during the lockdown compared to last year. In DeKalb County, there’s just been a one percent increase in domestic incidents.

Sgt. G. Erwin is part of the DeKalb County Police Department’s 5-person Special Victims Unit. She says she’s worried about cases that are not being reported.

“The victims have to be ready to make the decisions to get out,” said Erwin, “so we can prepare them with resources.”

In addition to the various resources available across metro Atlanta, the DeKalb County Police Department says resources in DeKalb include: Women's Resource Center, International Women's House, Men Stopping Violence, Tapestri and Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE).

For Cooper, her estranged husband is in jail, charged with multiple crimes including murder. He’s accused of killing Mehta as he tried to stop him from entering the home to get to Cooper.

“Every day i kind of just think about him,” said Cooper, “about how blessed I am to have somebody who was selfless enough to risk everything for a stranger that they didn’t know.”

She says she survived for a reason and is hopeful that others can too.

“I know God brought me through this for a purpose,” she said, “and that’s to speak for the women who are scared.”

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