COVID-19 continues to spread, and we are all facing multiple new stresses which may include physical and psychological health risks, school and business closures, family confinement, isolation, and financial worries.
High-stress home environments will increase the likelihood of domestic violence and abuse for both adults and children. Someone who is in an abusive relationship is now in quarantine with their abuser and access to services is more difficult than ever. Victims ordinarily wait to be by themselves before they seek help. They wait for their abuser to go to work. They secretly reach out to friends. They look for openings when they don’t have child-care obligations. All those options are closing. Isolation and stressful conditions such as job loss and feelings of helplessness will increase the number and severity of abuse in households that have already seen this violence. Domestic violence comes from wanting power and control. When an abuser loses that power and control, they take that out on the victims in their relationship.
Difficulty of Leaving
Loss of income might make it more difficult for victims to leave. Someone who has saved money in order to escape may now be forced to use that cash in the face of job loss or a reduction in hours.
When victims of domestic violence aren’t out in the community, the red flags of abuse are less likely to be noticed by friends and family members. We get reports through schools or hospitals that somebody has had a physical injury, but kids aren’t going to school right now and people are avoiding hospitals.
The weekly meetings or walk-up services that many victims attend are now closed due to social distancing. In-person support groups have been replaced by virtual ones. Therapists are using code words with their clients to keep them safe. However, victims are unable to have a phone conversation when the abuser is beside them and monitoring the phones of their victims. Many shelters are full across the country.
If victims are seeking a temporary restraining order or an emergency protective order, they can go to their local police stations.
Let’s all try to reach out to those who are especially in need during the COVID-19 crisis. Let’s be in touch with older people and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Communicate with our friends and family who are in abusive relationships and feel especially vulnerable in a time where social distancing exists. Let them know they are not alone.