MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A local organization that helps domestic violence victims is seeing higher demand for assistance this year.

Penelope House, which helps domestic violence victims in Mobile, Washington, Clarke, and Choctaw counties, says there’s been a drastic increase in domestic violence cases since 2019. In 2020, The Penelope House helped more than 11,000 victims.

According to the Executive Director of the Penelope House Tonie Ann Torrans, 5,500 domestic violence cases have been reported in 2021 so far. Those are just the reported cases — Torrans says only 1 out of every 4 domestic violence incidents are reported.

“So if we say in 2020 almost 5,000 people and a lot of 2020 the courts were shut down bc of COVID,” Torran said. “If you multiply that by four, that gives you an idea of the level of violence — domestic violence, in particular, that’s happening in our communities.”

According to Penelope House Court Advocate Supervisor Kristen Murphee, it is believed that the stay-at-home order enforced during the coronavirus pandemic could be a factor.

“They were feeling trapped. So they didn’t have those breaks in time where the perpetrator left or went to work,” Murphee said. “They didn’t have that freedom in time where they felt safe to call.”

In 2020, the organization helped 5,997 adults and 5,344 children escape domestic violence situations. Unfortunately, the need for their assistance continues to increase. This year, officials say they are seeing more severe cases.

“We started doing statistics earlier on in the year because we could feel the increase in the court system,” Murphee said. “We’re close to 400 more cases this year in our district court than we were in 2020.”

Penelope House and community partners including Lifelines Counseling Services offer services to victims. Executive Director of Lifelines Counseling Services Chandra Brown says they help victims identify unhealthy relationship traits.

“If you feel isolated, if you feel controlled, if that person gets physical with you…” Brown says. “Verbally attacks you, or talks to you in a certain way I think those are some of the glaring signs that you are in an unhealthy relationship.”

These organizations also assist in outlining the next steps needed to protect yourself and your family.

“It is very scary and takes a lot of strength,” Murphee said. “I see a very strong person who addressed their needs and took control of their life and is protecting themselves.”