SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WHSM) -- Local law enforcement said they've seen an increase in sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

State officials said with the stay-at-home advisory in place in Massachusetts, it's a problem that's been seen across the Bay State.

Both the Springfield and Chicopee Police Departments have seen an increase in domestic violence calls.

"In instances, these necessary steps of social distancing and staying at home have left survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence particularly vulnerable," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Thursday.

Polito is also the chairperson of the Governor's Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

She shined a light on services for both sexual assault and domestic violence victims.

“Today we are announcing the expansion of SafeLink. This is a state-wide 24/7 toll-free confidential domestic violence hotline," she said.

Before the outbreak, SafeLink was used to connect survivors specifically to domestic violence services. Polito said part of that expansion will allow SafeLink to connect victims to rape crisis centers, to local programs in their communities and provide advocates in English and Spanish.

The program is operated through Casa Myrna, a provider of domestic violence awareness efforts and of shelter and supportive services to survivors.

Here in Springfield, the Police Department said they've seen an increase in domestic violence calls.

The department told Western Mass News that from March 15 to 28, calls were 11% higher than the previous year. That amounts to two to three extra calls per day. The department said the numbers have leveled out a bit since then.

In Chicopee, the Police Department said they've also seen an uptick in calls. When they have to respond to a domestic violence situation, they're going inside homes with more protection.

"They do put on PPE gear. They put on goggles, masks, gloves and they do maintain that social distance of six feet as long as the situation allows," Officer Michael Wilk said.

According to police, those stuck inside their home and are scared to talk to someone over the phone for help, there is an alternative solution.

“If you're not able to talk when you call, you can do the silent call procedure. Our 911 dispatchers through Westcom will ask you questions. You can push buttons instead of talking, which is a safer way to get someone to come to your home,” Wilk said.

Polito also noted today that April is Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Prevention Month.

Those who victims of domestic violence or sexual assault during this stay-at-home order, there is a toll-free hotline people can call: 877-785-2020.

Those who are not comfortable verbally speaking to an advocate can visit the RAINN website.

"I also want to reiterate the message that sexual assault nurse examiners -- also known as SANE -- are still available in 36 hospitals across our Commonwealth during this time to provide forensic testing and support to those who need these critical services,” Polito said.

SANE nurse locations can be found on the mass.gov.

Copyright 2020.  Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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