*Content Warning: This piece contains references to domestic abuse and intimate partner violence, which may be triggering to some.*
More than three-quarters of the United States is carrying out a stay at home order and now intimate terrorism, better known as domestic violence, is on the rise. It is well known that domestic violence increases when families spend more time together, now this holds true more than ever.
There has been an alarming rise in cases worldwide and hotlines are struggling to keep up with the number of abuse reports coming in. This is a crisis that the government should have seen coming. So why did they not act sooner?
Institutions that are supposed to protect victims have somehow been caught off guard, even though they were warned early on. Delays in government response mean that irreparable harm has more than likely transpired. COVID-19 has impacted victims’ ability to access support and services, which is making it harder for them to cope. While home isolation is vital to decreasing the spread of the virus, it is giving more power to abusers in homes all over the world.
Along with physical abuse (which is not always present in every case), abusers are known for isolating the victim from friends, family and other means of community and support. They have strict rules and want constant surveillance and may restrict necessities such as food. The stay at home orders that have been put in place make it much easier for them to watch and control their victims, and much harder for them to escape or reach out for help.
Isolation has forced many victims and their children into dangerous and life-threatening positions. This pandemic is doing the work for abusers. Many of them are using COVID-19 to force victims to stay home and some are even throwing victims out for simple things such as coughing one time. Exit plans that took months to put in place have been ruined and access to support has been cut off, leaving victims all over the world fighting for their lives in their own home.
The stress and fear that come with major life changes due to the coronavirus outbreak, such as unemployment, sickness, and having to find childcare has only intensified the abuse many are currently facing.
This is a very stressful time for everyone and because of that, there is more risk for escalation in households everywhere, even those who have not experienced domestic violence prior to this. Studies have shown that as the economy begins to falter and unemployment rises, so does domestic violence. Victims of domestic abuse who may not have access to the internet, a phone, or other people will need someone to reach out and advocate on their behalf.
If you are worried about someone’s safety and know they do not have the ability to reach out for help, then call a hotline for them. If someone reaches out to you, listen before you respond so you can figure out what they need and how to best help them.
Resources for victims of domestic violence:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
Available 24/7, it can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through the online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.