Multiple resources exist for those now forced to spend more time with their abusers.
Though social distancing and stay-at-home orders are crucial to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, there has been a direct correlation between these protective measures and an increase in domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline confirmed that perpetrators could easily take advantage of social distancing policies to “exert control over their victims.” This doesn’t just mean physical abuse. Domestic violence includes verbal abuse as well as intentional deprivation of basic resources, which in the time of COVID-19 could include toilet paper and hand soap.
Before widespread social distancing went into effect, victims of domestic violence could find periods of solace at work and social engagements. Now, most, if not all, of their time is being spent at home with those committing these acts of violence. This trend was first noticed in France where there has been a reported 36 percent increase in domestic violence since the mandated lockdown. A 75 percent rise in Google searches related to getting help in the midst of domestic violence was reported from Australia. A drop-in center in Brazil has faced a 45 percent increase in visits.
Miriam Berger of The Washington Post states, “on a global scale …, shortages and shortcomings in service already were a major problem that the pandemic has worsened.” Domestic violence was already a vastly underreported crime, and now we’re seeing just how widespread daily abuse and victimization is. Some countries have taken up more effective measures than are usually in place. France, for instance, is paying for hotel rooms for victims of domestic abuse. Grocery stores across Europe have implemented the use of secret passwords that victims can say to identify that they are suffering from domestic abuse.
For countries that haven’t outlined extra measures for this serious rise in violence, there is the possibility that victims will seek out safety in shelters and group homes. These establishments are often already in poor condition and are unsafe without the threat of the coronavirus. Advocates even claim that these sorts of “shelters” are prime candidates for spreading the virus. Additionally, many individuals who are victims of domestic violence are being cut off from their support systems through the implementation of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns. This makes the feasibility of getting help seem even less possible.
Many organizations designed to combat domestic violence have begun providing additional resources and helplines during this time. There are webinars you can attend for free as well as secure phone numbers which put you in contact with trained advocates. Reach out to your friends and family and make sure that they are taking care of themselves in a multitude of ways. Assure anyone who is a victim of domestic violence that there are resources and options for them even in the midst of this viral pandemic. Support organizations and nonprofits doing the work to help victims of domestic abuse. In these ways, we can not only begin to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, but also that of domestic abuse.