In the wake of state governments like Ohio, Illinois, California, and Wisconsin announcing the closure of all non-essential businesses due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., social distancing is becoming the new normal for most of us living in America.
This is tough on everyone.
We wonder when we will be able to see our friends and family again without putting them at risk.
We wonder when we will be able to shop in department stores again. We ask ourselves, when will the panic die down?
At WodBottom, we firmly believe in focusing on the good, however; we cannot ignore the impact this is having on a community of women who are near and dear to our hearts.
Women impacted by domestic violence need our support now more than ever.
Social isolation plays a large role in domestic violence and the ability to perpetrate it.
Domestic violence can be hidden easier than outright violence because it usually takes place in an isolated location to begin with- the home. Abusers go unchecked by those who would point out the inherent problem with them using violence to meet their needs. Behind closed doors, abusers have more control over what information spreads to the world outside. Behind closed doors, women can feel more trapped and hopeless than ever.
If social isolation precedes domestic abuse and is indeed a sign of domestic abuse, what happens when it becomes a governmental policy?
According to Sushma Pandey, in Psycho-Social Aspects of Domestic Violence, “Social isolation is one of the commonly noted features of abusive families, coupled with stressful living conditions, such as lack of adequate day care, peer groups or close friends, and adequate housing.”
Coronavirus is actively creating some of these conditions. Day cares are shutting down, and women are forced to stay away from their friends so as to not spread the virus.
While these measures are important, they are also taking away valuable resources for survivors.
Women who might have gotten a reprieve from abuse when they went to work, children who might have been able to escape abuse during their time at school, are now forced to spend all of their time with an abuser.
Because of the increased amount of isolation, an increase in the amount of domestic violence incidents is expected. In fact, other countries have already experienced this increase. In the part of China where the outbreak began, the Hubei province, police reports of domestic violence increased from 47 last February to 162 in February 2020 (when the Coronavirus started to spread). In northeastern Spain, calls to the domestic violence hotline increased by 20% within the first few days of the lockdown. In Cyprus, calls to a comparable hotline saw a 30% increase. Closer to home, one therapist for domestic violence survivors in L.A. has already seen calls for help increase by 20%. With some school districts closing their buildings for the rest of the year, and weeks to go before quarantine orders are over, it raises concern about what these increases may look like before the Coronavirus pandemic has finally died down.
Experts speculate that the increase of reported incidents of domestic violence is not only the cause of forced at-home quarantining, but also because of the innate need that abusers have for complete control.
Abusers act out when they feel a loss of control, and during a national pandemic, they are bound to feel that things are slipping from their grasp.
They are likely to take that negative emotion out on their spouse and children- who have no means to escape their wrath.
Some survivors have even reported that their abusers are using the Coronavirus as yet another way to inflict pain. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, this has included things like withholding hand sanitizer, preventing the ability to see medical care, and threatening to throw survivors out of the home so that they would be more likely to be infected.
Things are dark right now, but all hope is not lost. Many women’s shelters are still open and fighting to keep their spaces disinfected. Hotlines are still open and available if women have the ability to use them safely. Therapists and counselors can still be seen electronically.
Most importantly, survivors have friends, coworkers, and neighbors who can and should reach out to them and support them. This is what we all can do for those who are dealing with domestic abuse right now.
If you fear someone is in danger or being abused, call a hotline number. Listen to survivors and try to help them if you can. You can be a resource in this time of crisis.
You can show survivors that they are not alone.
Sending love to all!
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).