How the COVID-19 Quarantine Is Impacting Domestic Violence in America — and How to Get Help
Tuesday at 9:06 pm
BY SANDRA GUY
As the coronavirus has put people on edge, out of work, in financial precariousness and helplessly furious at uncontrollable forces, it’s also created greater potential for domestic violence, experts say.
Even the United Nations has weighed in, tweeting an appeal to governments to “put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”
It’s a particularly timely topic, since October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The risks vary, from family members forced to spend long hours together with no escape, to stress causing those already on edge to turn to drugs and alcohol, to counseling and domestic-violence services being curtailed and overwhelmed, experts say. That’s on top of concerns about living in legally mandated quarantine, moving in with elderly relatives for fear of transmitting the coronavirus, and safe houses dependent on fundraising facing gaping budget losses.
The problem isn’t just physical violence, since abusive relationships can see the abuser watching the victim like a hawk; imposing strict rules of eating, dressing and exercising; isolating the victim from friends, family and employers, and requiring other stringent behaviors or risking the abuser’s rage and potential physical harm.
Local police departments reported double-digit percentage increases in domestic-violence calls in March, when many pandemic lockdowns started, compared to a year earlier, according to the April 28 issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Even more worrisome, many women — particularly those in underserved communities — are as terrified to call for help as they are of their abuser.
How can anyone escape?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by text or by calling 1-800-799-7233. You can also find resources by state at https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/state-resources
and, if possible, contact a trusted friend or relative to call the hotline on your behalf or, in an emergency, call 911.