The fear of contracting the Corona virus, wearing masks, social distancing, unemployment, economic crisis etc. have been the most highlighted topics since the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 as a Pandemic. Following the declaration, governments declared stay at home or shelter in place orders in some cities. Governments shutting down cities, employers furloughing or asking their employees to work from home, schools, shopping malls and recreational areas being closed, and isolation has taken a toll on many. It is one thing to go through a pandemic and experience a lockdown, but it is immensely unimaginable to be locked down with abusive partners for unknown number of days. The increased amount of time that families have been spending during such times can escalate domestic violence.
As the death toll rises, the stay at home solution deemed to be effective to somewhat reduce the spread of the virus. It is during these lockdowns that some struggle to survive not because they are afraid of the virus killing them (well that too) but in fear of losing their lives in the hands of their own partners. In times like this, victims also find it challenging to report the abuse as they are constantly monitored by their abusers.
According the Marshall project, a non-profit journalism about criminal justice, it is always hard to measure the scope of domestic violence and its particularly hard during a pandemic when families are essentially confined to homes, where a victim can’t easily escape an abuser.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline highlights some of the unique COVID-19 impacts on intimate partner violence survivors:
- Abusive partners may withhold necessary items such as sanitizers or disinfectants
- Abusive partners may frighten victims by misinforming them about the pandemic to prevent them from seeking medical help if they have symptoms
- Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards or threaten to cancel insurance cards
- Victims fear if they leave, there may not be space availability in shelters, and they may fear being in close quarters with a group of people
- Travel restrictions may also impact a victim’s escape or safety plan
The Decline of Domestic Violence Reports
During the Covid-19 health crisis, victims must contemplate whether to continue to live with an abuser and tolerate pain or look for places to live amid the virus scare, unemployment and lack of access to other public places during the lock down. They are also afraid of further threats from their abusers if they report such cases to the police. Margaret Bassett, a training director at the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas, Austin highlights that for victims, sometimes tolerating the abuse is safer when the alternative is moving into a shelter where victims and their children may be exposed to the coronavirus or when the abuser is the primary bread winner as tens of millions lose their jobs. Margaret heard a victim once say “women stay because they are afraid to leave, and they leave when they are afraid to stay”
Katie Ray Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, gave an interview on Tamron Hall show stating that the agency was concerned about survivors being trapped in their homes with abusive partners and that they would have the inability to seek out help because they were in such close proximity to the person who is most likely watching their behaviors and watching who they are talking to”. Victims are afraid to report in fear of the several threats they continue to receive from their abusive partners. Margaret emphasizes that for victims of Domestic Violence, their homes are not their sanctuaries and calling the police is a complicated factor especially during a pandemic like Covid-19.
What are Domestic Violence Indicators?
Examples of domestic violence indicators include the following:
- Physical abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Isolation from friends and family
- Confinement at home
- Restricted movement
- Restricted access or no access to finances
What can victims do to Seek help?
- Have a strategy and carefully come up with a plan
- Never announce their strategy to the abuser
- Reach out to family members and friends
- If possible, leave unannounced and stay with friends and family members
- Reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline https://www.thehotline.org/
- Remember that they are not alone and there is help out there, the sooner they leave the safer
To reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline which is available 24/7:
- Call 1-800-799-7233
- Chat @ thehotline.org
- Text LOVEIS to 22522
Here is a link of resources for victims and survivors of Domestic Violence