Another heartbreaking reality, among many, of the Covid-19 outbreak is the fact that for some staying at home is not safe at all. Domestic violence reports are increasing in all major cities across the country, and the problem is undoubtedly even worse as many victims can’t get away to call for help.
As partner abuse is about power and control, some abusers are using the pandemic as leverage, threatening to throw women (and, let’s be honest, it usually is women) out of the house, putting them in danger of exposure. Fear and anxiety about the virus, loss of jobs, and money worries all contribute to the stress load on those prone to violence, emotional or verbal abuse.
Add Alcohol & Guns
Also, up in recent weeks are fear driven gun sales–some places up over 300% in the last week of February and the beginning of March. Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said in an interview, “Surging gun sales and shelter-in-place orders are leaving domestic violence victims trapped with their abusers, who, in America, have easy access to guns, and that is a deadly combination. We know that domestic violence spikes during times of prolonged financial stress. And then when you add into that, that access to a gun makes it five times more likely an abuser will kill his female victim.”
Sales of wine, beer and liquor in Seattle, Chicago and Boston, were up 300 to 500 percent in mid-March compared to January. Obviously, the use of alcohol in the mix with anger, impulse control, and abuse issues can only escalate trouble. See more on alcohol and Stay at Home in my Quarantini Anyone? blog.
Schools and Pediatricians Keep Kids Safer
When people struggling with their mental health and/or substance abuse are suddenly stripped of their support systems in the form of therapists or group meetings things can spiral out of control. Add the stress of trying to homeschool and care for children 24-7 and the risk of physical abuse goes up. Children under 5 are most at risk for being hit and hurt and are not included in an online learning situation where they would have some teacher contact. And, tragically, sexual abuse will also go undetected as most of the perpetrators of child sexual assault happen to be a family member living inside the home.
What Can We Do?
Supporting stressed and at-risk families, in your circle, or neighborhood is still possible. Making a meal to leave outside, providing games or toys for kids, and checking in on the phone or online and having a conversation can help. Los Angeles Police Dept. detective and domestic violence coordinator Marie Sadanaga told The Hill, “LAPD along with all domestic violence service providers are trying to educate the community that we are still here and operating during the pandemic. Some services have moved to telephonic only, such as victim advocacy and legal services, but they are still working.”
Hotlines and Help: National Domestic Violence Hotline
If you’re at risk and live in California here is a list of organizations that can help: California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
You can find a Women’s shelter in your state or city through WomenShelters.org