Violent Partners – While many Americans stay at home for their safety during the pandemic, the house may be the most dangerous place for victims of domestic violence. The usual places where victims escaped in the past are not always on the go.
“We hear a lot of stories– ‘I’d go to my parent’s house, but my parents are elderly and in a high-risk group. I can’t go there,'” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Some domestic violence shelters across the country say they are full – after reducing the ability to keep a social distance – and are struggling to help survivors.
Help and advice:
National Domestic Violence Hotline / 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) / TTY 1-800-787-3224
Office on Women’s Health Helpline / 1-800-994-9662
National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673)
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
National Helpline for Men Who Where Sexually Abused or Assaulted
Shelters That May Help You:
Questions to ask a shelter
Advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline have noticed another troubling trend. Those who called and texted the hotline reported an increase in the frequency and severity of abuse. It’s the same trend that occurred during the latest economic downturn, Jones said.
“We would hear women and men say, ‘normally my partner pushes or pushes me – tonight he’s strangled me,’ Jones said.
“We get quite a few calls from victims saying ‘he put his hands around my throat.’ We could even hear in a woman’s voice the hoarseness from when her partner had strangled her.”
The hotline has typically 1,800 to 2,000 people contacting per day via calls, messages and online. Jones said that while that number dropped somewhat at the start of the pandemic, it increased by 9% in the following months.
Jones recommends that survivors develop a 7-step “safety plan” in the event an abuser escalates their behavior.
- Identify your partner’s use and strength level
- Assess the risk of physical harm to yourself and others before it occurs.
- Did they throw things?
- Did they threaten you?
- Are they capable of hurting you or themselves?
- How strong is your partner?
- Do they have access to dangerous and deadly weapons?
Often the situation is more dangerous than you might think. Jones said many victims of domestic violence underestimate how far their partner could go.
- Talk to other people living in residence about how to get help.
- Set a mutual signal about when a child or roommate needs help or leaves the house. Tell them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner.
- Create possible reasons for leaving home
- Trip to the grocery store.
- Spend time with friends.
- Have to work longer.
- Errands that needs to be accomplished.
- Anything that would make sense for your partner.
- Practice getting out safely if possible
- Make your security plan nearly automatic.
- Play your plan in your head repeatedly and go through all the steps. This may include safely removing elderly family members who live with you or getting an infant into the car with the seat.
- Plan what to do if your partner finds out about your plan
- If your partner finds out what your plan is, that loss of control the abuser feels could be dangerous, Jones said. Think of another reason why you made a plan.
- Seal or hide all weapons, whether they belong to you or your partner
- You have to make the weapons as inaccessible as possible. A barrier that slows down the attacker’s access to a gun to use against you can save valuable time.
Jones recommends that you do not take out the weapons in defence as they can end up being used against the victim. Besides, it will force the police responding to the assault to determine who is the victim and who is the perpetrator.
Consider how clothing or jewellery can be used to injure you physically
- Don’t wear scarves.
- Avoid wearing jewellery.
- Put your car back in the driveway when you park at home and keep it fueled
- If possible, keep the driver’s door unlocked to allow quick access to the vehicle.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself as physically small as possible
“It’s a heartbreaking one,” said Jones. “You want to protect your head, your brain, your internal organs. You’re preparing your body for kicks and punches.”