Warning: This article contains descriptions of domestic violence and may be difficult for some to read.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine calls domestic violence over the past year 'a pandemic within a pandemic.'
Nicole Molinaro, president and CEO of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh says the rise of domestic violence in Allegheny County is on pace with a rise across the United States.
"At a lot of different times, the world seems out of control during the pandemic," she said. "Unfortunately, for somebody who is prone toward using abuse for control, that can really be a trigger."
According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced "some form of physical violence by an intimate partner."
Danielle Krout, a former news reporter in Johnstown, is one of them.
While a successful and smiling reporter on camera, Krout was enduring a cycle of abuse at the hands of her now ex-husband at home.
"When it came to covering domestic violence cases, it always hit home for me because nobody knew on the other side of that screen, I was covering up bruises myself," Krout said.
The abuse was a secret that came to light in 2016 when Krout's husband cracked her skull and tried to strangle her. She was 26 weeks pregnant with their second child.
"I have a scar on my head that I'll have for the rest of my life," she said. "It's a constant reminder, but my son was born healthy. My daughter is healthy."
Now divorced and on the other side of seemingly endless and gut-wrenching court hearings, Krout turned to advocacy work. She started the non-profit organization Danielle Krout and Family Domestic Violence Awareness Fund.
She wants anyone in an abusive relationship to know that there is hope.
"When you walk away, do it and do it full-fledged," she said. "Don't go back. Don't look back."
Krout is also calling attention to the court process for victims of domestic violence, which she says can often be extremely tedious, painful and unfair.
Now, with an increase in domestic violence over the past year, Krout shared concern for those currently in abusive relationships.
"What I'm so fearful of for victims right now is where can they go for help?"
Molinaro adds the pandemic has forced some victims into isolation with their abusers and away from their support systems, possibly making it more difficult for them to seek help.
However, she says there are always ways for victims to reach out.
"Whether you try to use a text or chat line like the Women's Center and many other domestic violence programs have," Molinaro said. "Whether you reach out to a neighbor or friend, who can then call a hotline."
The Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.
To reach the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, call their 24-hour hotline at 412-687-8005 or text them at 412-744-8445.
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