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May 8, 2020 | by Journey Lipman and Thea Banis
By Journey Lipman and Thea Banis
We are ever grateful to our fantastic interns, who have remained flexible and supportive throughout our time adjusting to providing victim advocacy from our homes. Some of our interns chose to complete their spring internships with a blog post, and some with final presentations. Two of our interns, Journey and Thea, wrote about the impact the Coronavirus has had on survivors of Domestic Violence. Stay tuned for more blog posts from our interns throughout the summer!
COVID-19 and Survivors of Abuse
by Journey Lipman
Officials across the nation have implemented stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic as social distancing becomes an important response towards keeping individuals safe and reducing the spread of the virus. This has brought struggles to many as they lose their jobs, run low on essential supplies, and worry about the health of themselves and their loved ones. Survivors of interpersonal violence are facing an additional challenge during this time as they may be quarantined with an abusive partner, family member, or caretaker. Across several countries around the world, online searches of domestic violence resources and calls to local hotlines have surged since the beginning of this pandemic as survivors are facing various displays of abuse at home. This pandemic may bring more unique challenges for survivors than previously seen as COVID-19 brings unprecedented circumstances.
Survivors’ exit and safety plans may be compromised during this time due to travel becoming much more difficult and shelters closing. Airline tickets, public transportation, and rideshare services have all slowed down in regards to being a reliable form of transportation as airlines cancel flights, public transport reduces service, and Uber drivers are staying home. With this, many travel bans and checkpoints have been put into place nationwide to prevent travelers from crossing borders. This can greatly affect a survivor's ability to successfully complete their exit or safety plan as they may be unable to travel to a safe location. If one is able to secure a plane flight or other public transportation method, it may not be the safest option, healthwise, especially for survivors who may be elderly or have an underlying condition. Domestic violence shelters are another roadblock that may be in the way of a survivor trying to complete their safety plan. Many shelters have closed or limited their amount of new intakes due to COVID-19 as well.
During this stressful and unknowing time, survivors may face another challenge, and that is the abusers withholding important medical necessities. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline this can include but is not limited to, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, face masks, hand soap, medical insurance, and medical attention if sick. Abusers may withhold these supplies and resources as a way to gain control over their partners especially since some of these items are important for those with pre-existing medical conditions where contracting the virus is particularly dangerous. Prior to the pandemic, withholding certain medical supplies, such as masks or hand sanitizer may not have been an issue, but these items are essential during a global pandemic, and individuals have the right to use them when desired to care for themselves.
Domestic Violence in Quarantine
by Thea Banis
With strict social distancing measures being placed on households, many domestic violence victims are being forced to choose between sheltering in place with their abusers or risk exposure traveling to community resources. This remains a growing concern as police departments throughout the United States are reporting either spikes in calls or alarmingly lower rates in calls, related to domestic violence. While either circumstance is distressing to hear, lack of calls related to domestic violence is leading many to worry cases are not being reported at all. Statistics for domestic and interpersonal cases are crucial in determining resources to best suit individuals within the community. By bringing awareness to the potential increase of cases amid quarantine, I hope to also illustrate how important these systemic resources can be for those seeking them.
The pandemic of the coronavirus has sent a majority of the population home & jobless with the closure of all non-essential businesses and schools. Which has eliminated the opportunity for victims to have breaks in the day from their abusers, many of whom remain unemployed as well. As closures continue and unemployment rises, not only does this bring financial strains into the mix, but it encourages abusers to use new tactics in power and control techniques as a result. Abusive power and control is defined as a pattern of controlling behaviors to maintain power in a relationship by one partner over another. Aileen Robinson, domestic violence operations coordinator of Chicago, made a statement that she has already noticed cases of abusers manipulating victims by intentionally exposing them to the virus or threatening the throw them out if they test positive. According to a recent report by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which typically receives up to 2,000 daily, has counted 951 callers between March 10th to 24th who mentioned COVID-19 while reporting their abuse. Crystal Justice, the chief marketing and development officer at the NDVH, in response to the report expressed that COVID-19 is impacting the ability to access support and services like accessing shelters, counseling, and different things victims would typically lean on in their communities. In addition to the fears of support systems being impacted, many victims are still facing the challenge to even report incidences due to close proximity to their abusers.
It’s important to know that despite local shutdowns, many non-profit organizations and programs that support domestic violence victims have remained open and are increasing their outreach within the community, including us advocates here at the Initiative. As advocates, we worry that this information is not being announced as loudly as it should, as many victims believe there is nowhere else to go and nobody can help. This is far from the truth, in fact, in recent news both the Denver Coliseum & National Western Complex have converted their buildings by installing beds, portable showers, and a medical triage for individuals experiencing homelessness in the metro area.
While these are all temporary solutions for domestic violence victims amid quarantine, its important to acknowledge how vital it will be for the community to come together. Whether this is checking up on your fellow neighbor or simply sending a thoughtful message to let others know their surrounding support system still exists. No matter what is occurring in the world, compassion will always be essential.
Finally, increased isolation can be troublesome for all of the Americans across the nation as mental health can be strongly correlated with social interaction. Isolation adds another factor that increases challenges towards survivors of abuse as they may not be able to visit with social supports they once had, and they are at increased risk for harm and inability to reach out for help due to close quarters. This is important to keep in mind that these survivors may need additional help and resources since their original social supports may not be an option at this time. With this, the increased isolation can make an abuser feel as though they have ultimate control and power, leading to increased, or new, harmful behaviors.
This information is important for everyone to know and be aware of as it is a difficult and different time with an abundance of change. Everyone is faced with a unique set of circumstances during COVID-19, and survivors of abuse are no different. It is important to watch out for loved ones, friends, community members, and ourselves during this time and to reach out for help when safe and able.
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