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Domestic Violence & Covid 19, Mix Together Like Oil & Water

We are all aware of how stressful it has been during this covid-19 pandemic. Stuck at home, possible loss of employment, financial stresses. If abuse is already an issue in the relationship, the pandemic could cause it to be much worse.

Remember, we were basically in lock-down when the pandemic first came. Being in close proximity on a constant basis, basically 24/7. When I heard about these restrictions being mandated state-to-state my heart sank. As a survivor of domestic violence, I remember saying to my boyfriend that this was going to be bad for those who are still currently living with their abuser. Then it happened, a news story that the NDVH (National Domestic Violence Hotline) had reported an increased number of calls.

As if being in an abusive relationship isn’t isolating enough. Now we were being told that we have to stay home, social distance, and isolate ourselves from the world. Along with our abuser. Lives that are already in danger on a regular basis, now becoming a larger risk with these added stressors and mandates. This also can increase the number of murders and/or murder-suicides. I can’t even imagine the fear the victims must have had when hearing this. A victim may already be isolated from their family and loved ones and now even more so.

The chances of a victim to leave and go somewhere safe for shelter has now been taken away from them in a sense. Due to isolation and fear of exposure to covid-19, or even exposing their children may have the victim feel stuck and unable to leave the abuser. It is a scary choice for a victim to make. Stay with their abuser and endure more abuse and the possibility of it getting even worse. Or risk getting help and exposing themselves and their children to a virus that has no cure and no one knows hardly anything about.

For some, this may seem like an easy solution. Some of you who are reading this and have not experienced domestic violence for yourselves may be thinking right now, “The choice is easy, leave and seek help no matter the risk.” It is far much easier to say it then to actually do it. Maybe instead of thinking that, if you know someone who is in a situation like this and are able to; reach out to them and let them know that you are there for them and that they can come stay with you. Or, research for agencies in your area to see what they are offering during this pandemic.

An abuser is all about power and control. Add the pandemic where most people feel like they have no control and you have someone who may use this pandemic to cause even more fear and harm to the victim and use it as an excuse.

From the NDVH website:

Here’s how COVID-19 could uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors:

  • Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.

  • Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.

  • Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.

  • Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.

  • Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.

  • Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.

  • An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.

This is a stressful time. Although we may not be able to see our loved ones face-to-face we can still contact them and check on them. If by chance someone you know has been completely cut off from any form of communication the best thing you can do is remind yourself that you cannot make decisions for anybody else. You, yourself can create a safety plan so that you are prepared when or if that phone call comes, or if there is a knock at your door.

Remember you are not alone! Whether you are a victim, a survivor, a friend, or family member of someone in an abusive relationship. We are all in this together!

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