The overarching message to us all is to stay home as the coronavirus spreads. But for many, home may be a dangerous place to be and, for survivors of domestic abuse, quarantining with their abusers can put them at an increased risk.
During the holidays, survivors often find themselves trying to keep their families together, to not rock the boat when things are already stressful. The current coronavirus crisis may put survivors in a similar situation as instances of domestic abuse increase due to the amount of stress this pandemic and subsequent isolation can cause.
In Jingzhou, Hubei, China, 90% of the causes of domestic violence cases they are seeing at this time are related to COVID-19, according to recent statistics reported by the Huffington Post. It is clear that we may see domestic abuse cases surge during the pandemic in the U.S. as well.
Isolation is a tool that abusers often use to keep control of their victims, and being stuck at home during this time can make that even easier for them to perpetrate. With people around the country losing job security due to the virus, financial abuse is also a major risk.
The survivor is in a terrible predicament. If they could get out, would it be worse with the pandemic? Would they have money to survive? Would they catch the virus? Would their children be protected? These factors all play a huge role in if they think it’s a good time to leave or if they are able to do so.
It’s not a black-and-white decision. Many factors come into play, and Middle Way House always offers clients all of the options at our disposal, but we never force them to do anything. It’s their choice. We cannot try to control their life as their abuser has done.
We encourage those who think they know someone who is currently a victim of abuse and is isolated with their abuser to continue contact with that person, if possible.
Communication doesn’t have to be explicitly about the abuse, especially if the abuser may hear or see the correspondence, but it can be a continual check-in to see how they are doing during this pandemic. They could even check in to see how everyone in the home is doing, to avoid discovery and not make the situation worse.
If one is able to talk about the abuse with this person, make sure they know Middle Way House is open, even if it’s just for a call in to our help and crisis line. Our services will continue to be available during this crisis.
At Middle Way House, we always support survivors, no matter the circumstances. And we are still currently open to provide our services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.
While those who can work remotely will do so, we will continue as much of our services as possible to support survivors during this global crisis. We are working to set up our four support groups via Zoom. We are still filing protective orders through our legal advocacy staff, although some parts of the process will be done online or through phone because the County Clerk’s office is closed.
Our help and crisis line is open, and our advocates are ready to help anyone who may need it, remotely if necessary. We are also working to add safe and confidential messaging to our crisis line to give survivors another option to reach us during this challenging time.
We are stretched very thin during this time, as we expect an increase in clients over the upcoming weeks and months due to the effects of the coronavirus and of isolation.
This sort of pandemic and worldwide social isolation is not something we have seen in our lifetimes, and it is very hard to navigate, but we all have to support each other. If you know of something and can safely contact the person experiencing abuse, do so, but remember they may be quarantined 24/7 with their abuser — so be careful not to exacerbate the situation.
Amalia Shifriss, Communications and Outreach Coordinator at Middle Way House
If you need immediate help or support, you can call Middle Way House's 24-hour, confidential crisis line at 812-336-0846.