October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyone’s day-to-day lives, but it has been especially harrowing for those living with domestic abuse. 
Poster for domestic violence awareness monthAs the COVID-19 pandemic wears on and Americans are encouraged to stay home to protect themselves and their communities, it is important to recognize that home may not be a safe haven for families who experience domestic violence.

This is an extremely stressful time. Job losses, health concerns and illness, the death of loved ones, financial struggles and challenges home-schooling children are exacerbated by limited access to community resources and support systems. These factors, plus the reality that survivors of family violence are forced to stay in the home in constant close contact with abusers makes for a volatile environment. This constant proximity may stimulate violence in families where it didn’t exist before and potentially worsen situations in homes where mistreatment and violence were already a problem or have been in the past. 

According to an article published Aug. 13 in the journal Radiology, X-ray evidence points to pandemic lockdowns triggering an increase in domestic violence. Data from a major Massachusetts hospital showed a significant year-over-year surge in partner violence among female patients in particular who sought emergency care during the first few weeks of the pandemic. Experts on domestic violence suspect that the pandemic makes it easier for abusers to control victims and less likely that others - like teachers or childcare providers - will notice something is wrong because people are more isolated.  

To help those who are experiencing violence during this unprecedented time and share resources for survivors, it is important to recognize ways COVID-19 could uniquely impact people in domestic violence situations.

Abusive partners may withhold necessary safety items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants or prevent their victims from seeking appropriate medical attention if they experience symptoms. Abusers may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance or prevent survivors from seeking needed medical attention. Programs available to assist survivors may be overwhelmed or operating at limited capacity. Survivors may fear entering a shelter and travel restrictions may impact their escape plan.

Be Aware of Warning Signs

Create a plan if someone you are living with is:

  • verbally or emotionally hurtful
  • threatening you
  • having episodes of explosive anger
  • harming animals

Take Steps for Your Own Safety and the Safety of Others 

  • Identify a place to which you can retreat safely. Avoid the bathroom or kitchen
  • Enlist support from a trusted friend or family member you can call
  • If necessary, determine a code word or phrase to indicate to friends or family you need help
  • Memorize the phone numbers of people and agencies you might need to call in an emergency

Make sure you can easily access:

  • cash
  • identification (Social Security card and driver’s license)
  • birth and marriage certificates
  • credit cards, safe deposit box keys and bank information
  • health insurance information
  • any documentation, photos, medical or police reports relating to previous abusive episodes

Virginia Beach Human Services refers survivors to Samaritan House at 2060 Southern Blvd. Samaritan House can be reached during regular business hours at 757-631-0710 and the 24-hour crisis hotline is 757-430-2120. The State Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-838-8238 and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).

In the Right Hands

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