READING, Pa. - The saying during the pandemic is "stay home, stay safe," but in some cases, staying home is anything but safe.

"Definitely been high levels of panic for a lot of people," said Jennifer Sawyer, Safe Berks legal advocate.

Sawyer said that ever since the pandemic started, Safe Berks has received about 200 calls from people requesting legal advice, which involves filing for protection from abuse orders.

The Reading-based organization said it has provided free legal representation for more than 50 victims of domestic and sexual assault.

"We're definitely seeing that folks are in a position that they are not able to access their normal resources," Sawyer said, "so if they would need to get out of a residence, to be with a family member or friend for a few days, they can't do that."

She said during this time, when tensions are running especially high, more and more people are now suffering from a combination of both mental and physical abuse.

"Of course, you feel like you're stuck and don't have somewhere else to go," Sawyer said. "This person may be controlling your finances. Maybe financial situation has gotten worse, people have lost their job. Maybe the power and control has gotten worse."

The Safe Berks emergency hotline is available 24/7, and the legal hotline operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sawyer said anyone suffering should seek help.

"We're doing our best we can to provide these services without interruption to those folks who desperately need them," Sawyer explained.

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