Right now, many families are more stressed than ever. The pandemic has parents worrying about finances and schooling, as well as the day-to-day frustrations of dealing with more time stuck at home with family. All of that has contributed to rising rates of domestic violence over the past six months.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, calls were up roughly 9% between March and June, compared to the same period during 2019. Ten percent of people who called the hotline directly connected the violence they were experiencing to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The first thing that came to mind when I heard about COVID restrictions and mitigation strategies was how exceptionally dangerous this time could be for women living with abusive partners,” domestic violence researcher Eve Valera wrote for Harvard Health Blog in June. “‘Self-isolate,’ ‘stay at home,’ ‘practice social distancing,’ and ‘recession’ are all words likely to be terrifying to many women who are living with intimate partner violence.”
Domestic Violence Rising Around The World
Even before the pandemic, domestic violence was all too common. About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be the victim of domestic violence during their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although restrictions on movements are lifting, the economic and emotional impact of the pandemic is very present. Those stressors can increase the likelihood of domestic violence. It’s happening not just in North American, but around the world, according to New York Times reporting: in Britain, domestic violence was up about 20% and in France it had increased about 30%.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is more important this year than ever. During 2020, the month is focused on the hashtag #1thing. The idea is that we can all do one thing to help end domestic violence. Learning how to support yourself or a loved one who is experiencing domestic violence is a great place to start.
How to Help Yourself
- Know where to turn for help. The Hotline provides 24/7 support for people who are experiencing domestic violence. This link has all the information. You can chat confidentially online or 1-800-799-SAFE. For a list of Canadian resources, click here.
- Make a safety plan. The Hotline provides an interactive safety planning tool that can help you and your loved ones know what to do to decrease your chances of being hurt.
- Remember, it’s not your fault. Domestic violence is all too common. What you are experiencing is not your fault, and you are never to blame. Only you know what the right choice for your family is, but getting information from trained professionals who understand the complexities of living with domestic violence can help you make informed decisions.
How to Help A Loved One
Watching someone that you love experience domestic violence can be heartbreaking. It can also be super frustrating, and you might find yourself wondering why you friend or family member doesn’t “just leave.” Here’s what you should know about helping a loved one.
- Don’t make judgements. Living with domestic violence is complex. People stay with abusive partners for a variety of reasons. Before you can help your friend or loved one, you need to accept that only they can make the decision to leave. You need to be there for them, without pushing them to do something they’re not yet ready to do.
- Meet them where they are with emotional support. You can always talk about the fact that their situation is scary or difficult. The Hotline recommends avoiding talking badly about their abusive partner, since that might make them reluctant to confide in you.
- Engage them. Having a network outside the family is important, since domestic abusers often try to isolate their victims. Bringing new people into your social network is difficult during the pandemic, but incorporate your friend or loved one where you can by inviting them to your book club, moms group or other activities.
- Offer physical support. Let your friend know that you can help them to make copies of important documents or hold on to money or clothing. All of this can be helpful when and if they decide to leave their partner.
- Educate yourself and volunteer. Loving someone who is experiencing domestic violence can leave you feeling helpless. You can’t control what your friend or family member does, but you can educate yourself and give back to other people in similar situations. Volunteering with or donating to a local domestic violence agency can help you feel empowered.
Dealing with domestic violence is never easy, but together we can all do #1thing to end domestic violence forever.