EDITORIAL: Domestic violence victims: You’re not alone

Social isolation may be making matters worse for victims

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

There are so many victims of the coronavirus outbreak.

But some of the most affected will never get the disease.

They’re the unseen and unheard victims of domestic violence.

They’re the women and children trapped in their homes with their abusers by social isolation measures and unemployment.

They’re the victims living in households where stress levels are even higher than normal, thanks to financial pressures and crowded living conditions with the kids home, and more alcohol use and more boredom and frustration.

They’re the victims threatened with exposure to the virus by abusers withholding hand sanitizer (yes, they seriously do that), disinfectant and medical assistance; sharing misinformation to keep victims from visiting their families; and restricting access to insurance cards and transportation to a doctor’s office. 

They’re the victims unable to sneak away to make a phone call seeking help.

They’re the ones who have even less ability to leave their situations because they’re beholden to their abusers financially in greater measure than they were before this all started. Or they fear catching the coronavirus if they leave their homes and move themselves and their children into crowded shelters.

While overall crime rates have plummeted in many places during the outbreak, including locally, the number of domestic violence reports has jumped, sometimes significantly.

And in communities where domestic violence reports have dropped or stayed the same, officials suspect that’s because victims are simply hunkering down and weathering the abuse because they have no other choice.

We may find out the true impact of this outbreak on abuse in the home when the outbreak wanes and people have more freedom to escape their situations and report their abusers to authorities.

We as a society have to ensure that domestic violence victims also don’t become victims of the coronavirus.

The state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence operates a toll-free hotline for domestic abuse victims, 1-800-942-6906. Victims also can call 911 in an emergency.

State officials say victims shouldn’t be afraid to come forward. 

And while many shelters are full, the officials say the state will find places for victims should they need to escape their situations.

Some police agencies, cognizant of escalating the violence with an arrest, are sometimes issuing tickets instead to keep tempers from flaring even more.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline website urges victims, families and friends to create a personal safety plan for how victims can live with their abuser, how to leave and what to do after they leave. 

For example, plan for the fact that shelters might be full and that the victims may have to shelter with friends, family members or in motels. The website urges victims to practice “self-care” by maintaining their mental and physical health and hygiene, and for friends and family members to be supportive.

It also encourages victims to maintain social connections online or via the phone to prevent feelings of isolation, and to reach out for help when it’s safe to do so by calling the 24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY; by visiting thehotline.org; or by texting LOVEIS to 22522.

There’s no reason for the coronavirus to make victims of people experiencing domestic violence.

If you know someone in this situation, reach out to them.

And if you’re in this situation, know that there are people out there willing to help.

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