How COVID-19 Impacts Domestic Violence Survivors
Resilience Program Director,
Megan Hennessey, LMSW
Domestic violence is about power and control. It is not limited to physical abuse. It includes psychological abuse, emotional abuse and manipulation tactics one person uses to gain power and control over their intimate partner. There are three reasons why we should be even more concerned for survivors of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Isolation. Isolation is already a common tactic abusive people use. They often try to control what their partner does, who they see and talk to, where they go and limit their outside involvement. Social distancing measures, while necessary, are going to make it easier for abusers to use, and feel more justified in using, isolation as a tactic.
- Proximity. When home isn’t safe, sometimes the only sanctuary survivors have is when they’re able to go to work, school, church or any other physical space in their community. Social distancing measures are going to make it more challenging for survivors to reach out and find community members to help.
- Extra stress can feel like a loss of control. Because domestic violence is all about power and control, when an abuser feels like they are losing control, their behaviors often escalate. We see this when survivors make attempts to leave an abusive relationship. In these uncertain times, we’re all feeling at least a little loss of control over our lives. For people who abuse, they can interpret this as a loss of control over their partners or household, and deal with this loss of control through escalating their abusive behaviors or battering. We are facing another public health crisis; we may look back at this time as one where domestic violence victims were more at risk of getting hurt or becoming victims of homicide.
Please check in with your community members. If you’re in an abusive relationship, consider when it may be time to call the police. Consider if you’d like to set up a code word with family or friends so you can alert them that you need help without alerting your partner. Think about what documents or other items you may want to have on hand if you need to leave suddenly. Please call our confidential 24-hour Help Line at (800) 848-5991 for support and more safety planning ideas. Our emergency shelter and sexual assault nurse examiner programs are essential services and still operating. Advocates and therapists are ready to talk via telephone or video chat. We are here, and will still be here, providing essential services in calm, creative and survivor-focused ways.