COVID Lockdowns and Domestic Violence: What You Should Know
Each year, over 10 million people encounter domestic violence. These already high rates may get even higher during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Being trapped at home with an abuser can lead to many unique challenges.
Domestic Violence on the Rise During COVID
Domestic violence COVID statistics paint a worrying picture. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has had an increase in calls, texts, and online chats that reference COVID as a cause for concern. Reports of domestic violence have increased by roughly 35% to 45% around the nation. Many of these domestic violence reports involve particularly brutal abuse. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that rates of murder-suicides have also increased in 2020, which is particularly concerning. Estimates suggest that COVID-19 may end up being responsible for as many as 15 million additional cases of intimate partner violence.
The reason for these concerningly high numbers is that countless people are trapped at home with their abuser. Before COVID-19, domestic violence victims often got some respite from going to work, going to school, or having their abuser leave for work. Now that most people are spending all their time at home, things get a lot trickier. When people are constantly with their abuser, there are more opportunities for them to get hurt. Furthermore, all of the added stress and tension of the pandemic itself may lead to abusers lashing out more often. Alcohol abuse is often closely linked to domestic violence, and the pandemic has also led to a large spike in alcohol usage at home. All of these factors combine to reveal worrying trends of dangerous abuse.
The Challenges of Being Trapped at Home With an Abuser
For people in an abusive situation, staying in lockdown with an abuser can be a nightmare situation. COVID domestic abuse tends to be worse because abusers may increase violence as a way of trying to assert control when they feel stressed. Several factors in domestic abuse, including substance use and financial problems, are on the rise because of COVID as well. These can indirectly worsen abuse.
In some situations, COVID itself may become a tool of abuse. Some people have reported their abuser threatening to remove them from health insurance or kick them out while homeless shelters are closed. When a person is seriously hurt, they may not be able to get medical help because of concerns about COVID infection. Domestic abuse during COVID is further worsened by the fact that people who have lost their job are more vulnerable to being abused. Without being able to easily provide for themselves, many people are more likely to stick with an abuser.
Many abusers prefer to isolate their victims, and COVID-19 regulations make this a lot easier. If an abuser can monitor their victims’ phone and internet usage, they can cut them off entirely from their support system. Without having to worry about teachers, coworkers, or other family members witnessing marks of domestic violence, some abusers may escalate further. Because of perceptions about the police being too busy, some abuse victims are less likely to call the police for help either.
Another unfortunate reality is that being unable to leave the home makes it harder to make plans for an escape. When a person is constantly being watched, it will be hard for them to gather funds, find a new place to live, or consult with a divorce attorney. Some organizations are currently closed, making it hard to do things like seek help from a domestic violence shelter. Instead of being able to leave quietly while the abuser is gone, some confrontation may be inevitable when you decide to leave.
Strategies for Handling Domestic Violence During COVID
So how do you handle a situation where you are trapped at home all the time with an abuser? First of all, there are some things you can try to do to mitigate damage until you can leave. Try to create a safe space in your home where you can escape when the abuser is in a violent mood. Avoid going to the bathroom or kitchen since injuries can be much worse in these rooms. Make note of any situations that set off the abuse, and do what you can to avoid them. Abuse is never your fault, but creating a safety plan can help you feel a little more control in the situation.
If possible, try to find ways to communicate with others without your abuser being aware. Check computers for keyloggers and other spyware. Always use an incognito mode or private mode browser to browse anything you do not want your abuser to see. Consider purchasing a pay-as-you-go phone to use as a form of emergency communication. Use these forms of technology to work towards finding a safe place to live.
Even during COVID-19, it is important to take steps towards leaving your abuser. Remember that your abuser always has the potential to escalate or expand their abuse to other family members, so staying with them is incredibly unsafe. Leaving is always the most dangerous time during any abusive relationship, and it is particularly hard during COVID-19. Therefore, you may not have quite as much planning time as you would like. When making plans for leaving, keep in mind that things are replaceable, but the lives of you and your loved ones or not. Try to gather all important documents, cash, medications, clothing, and keepsakes. However, if you do not have access to them, you may want to leave without them.
Domestic abuse during COVID feels isolating, but there are always people who can help. If you have friends and family members, contact them, and be honest about your situation. Opening up about domestic abuse might feel awkward, but having a support system makes it far easier to escape. There are also all sorts of organizations still operating, even during COVID. They can help you find safe housing and rebuild your life. The police force is also available to help with domestic abuse situations. In addition to getting emergency assistance, you can also call the non-emergency hotline to get help with exiting your home or removing your belongings from your home.
Hope for Those Dealing With Domestic Violence During COVID
Ultimately, COVID-19 does result in some unique difficulties for people living with their abusers. However, you should never give up hope. You deserve respect, and you deserve to feel safe in your own home. Though leaving an abusive situation may take extra planning during COVID-19, it is still possible.
If you or a loved one is struggling with domestic violence, it is important to seek legal help. A qualified divorce attorney can help you file restraining orders and protect children and pets from an abuser. The Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco has the experience and sensitivity needed to handle these difficult cases. You can contact our Hackensack office via phone or email, so we can set up a discreet consultation. Learn more about our services by filling out our contact form or calling 201-343-0078.