Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Domestic Violence during COVID-19
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. A recent article in the New York Times unfortunately reports that domestic abuse cases have surged due to people being forced inside amid the coronavirus pandemic. So, while we’re all at home, we’re here to shed some light on domestic abuse — how to identify it and what to do if you find yourself in that difficult situation (psst, you’re not alone).
Signs your partner is abusive
- The biggest red flag: If you are afraid of your partner (e.g. if you’re afraid to express your feelings, bring up certain topics, or say no to sex). In a healthy relationship, there is no reason for you to fear your partner, no matter the reason.
- If your partner tries to control different aspects of your life such as who you associate with, when and where you go out, and what you wear and how you look (e.g. if they control your money by keeping it away from you, put you on an allowance and make you explain what you spent, stop you from working, or steal money from you).
- If your partner bullies or threatens you or someone close to you.
- If your partner embarrasses you in front of other people and it makes you want to avoid people.
- If your partner sexually abuses you by forcing you to have sex, making you dress in a sexual way, making you feel like you owe them sex, and refuses to use condoms or other birth control.
- Lastly, if your partner physically abuses you by abandoning you in a place you don’t know, attacking you with weapons, keeps you from eating, sleeping, or getting medical care, or locks you in or out of your house. Or, if they punch, push, kick, bite, or pull your hair.
What to do if you’re getting abused
We recognize that many people are trapped at home with their abusers as a result of this quarantine, so the tips provided below by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence are meant to protect people from physical abuse and are modified for people who are trapped currently and cannot leave the house.
- Move away from the kitchen, bathroom, garage or any place where there are dangerous sharp objects.
- Plan the easiest escape route. Decide on a door or window to exit quickly and safely. Make sure your kids know the route and practice it with them. Have a code word so they know when to call the law enforcement.
- Don’t wear necklaces or scarves — these could be used to strangle you.
- Always make sure weapons are secured and that guns aren’t loaded.
Below are some tips on what to do if you are able to or are planning to leave your home:
- Tell your kids that, if there’s violence, their job is to stay safe, not to protect you. Find a safe place for them to stay in case of violence, such as with a neighbor or in a locked room. Teach them to call 911 and what to say to the dispatcher.
- Hide money, spare keys and a small bag of clothes at work or at a friend’s house. For small children, hide a favorite toy or stuffed animal that will comfort them.
- Inform your employer about the situation and develop a safety plan at work. Share a photo and description of the abuser with them and any pertinent legal documentation, such as a protection order.
- Document the abuse by taking photos of bruises and injuries, tell your doctor and get copies of your medical records; save threatening voicemails, notes and emails and write each incident down in a journal.
- Gather important documents or copies of documents such as passports, birth certificates, social security cards, insurance papers, work permits or green cards, ownership documents for car and/or house, checkbooks and bank account numbers. Hide these papers at work or at a friend’s house. Know the abuser’s social security number, birth date and place of birth.
- Consider obtaining a protection order. It directs the abuser not to contact, communicate with, attack, sexually assault or telephone you, your children or other family members. If you have a protection order, carry a copy of it with you at all times.
If it is an emergency, please call 911. Contemplating your next move can be difficult because you’re not sure whether you should stay or leave. That’s why it may help to start with a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799-SAFE (1–800–799–7233). If it’s not safe for you to call, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, another option for getting direct help is to use their confidential live chat service on their website.
If you live in New York like we do, you can call the NYC Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–621-HOPE (1–800–621–4673). The 24-hour hotline can also be utilized for gender-based violence survivors. Call from a family or friend’s house or somewhere else where you feel safe.
You can also visit http://nyc.gov/nychope to find services for domestic & gender-based violence survivors. You should also confide in your support system. Don’t forget to plan for safety in the meantime.
Remember if you ever find yourself in this situation, it is not your fault. If you can’t make the first call for help right away, you are not weak. Dark times may feel like they last forever, but they don’t. Good days are coming because everyone, including you, deserves a safe home.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going. Why would you stop in hell?” — Steve Harvey
Want to help out someone undergoing domestic violence during quarantine? Donate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline here to ensure someone is available to answer the most important call of a victim’s life.