COVID-19 cases are surging across states, and domestic violence is on the rise as families are forced together into close quarters without the temporary reprieve of work, school or errands. Unfortunately, for more than 12 million victims of domestic violence, spending additional time at home is more troublesome than peaceful.
Domestic Violence By the Numbers
Domestic violence is all too common in America today.
The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey is widely used for domestic violence statistics, and even a decade ago, the statistics were concerning.
- Nearly 20 people were physically abused every minute by an intimate partner.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 and older in the US have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
- Almost half of all American women and men will experience some form of psychological aggression by an intimate partner.
Additionally, the National Institute of Corrections reports that women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline shows that 1 in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a romantic partner.
“Domestic violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” warns Michelle Jewsbury, an international philanthropist speaker and survivor of abuse. “Women are more susceptible to violent situations if they grew up in families where violence was accepted and boundaries weren’t acknowledged. Children who witness domestic violence are 15 times more likely to become victims of child abuse.”
We asked Morris about whether she has seen any difference in domestic violence reports with the pandemic. “In my office 100x,” she says resolutely. “I get calls during the middle of the night and early in the morning for help.”
Early Signs of Domestic Violence
With so many victims under one roof with their abusers, it’s possible that some may begin to normalize this behavior. These are some of the early warning signs to look for with domestic violence.
- Says that you never do anything right
- Insults, demeans or shames you, especially in front of other people
- Insults your parenting
- Threatens to harm or take away your children or pets
- Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Shows extreme jealousy of friends and family and time spent away from them
- Prevents or discourages you from spending time with friends, family members, or peers
- Intimidates you through threatening looks or actions
- Acts jealous or possessive
- Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
- Blames you for his or her violent behavior
- Tells you that you deserve this behavior
- Prevents you from making your own decisions, such as the ability to work or go to school
- Pressures you to have sex or perform sexual acts you’re not comfortable with
- Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
- Intimidates you with weapons like guns, knives, bats, or mace
- Destroys your belongings or your home
- Tries to control your healthcare
- Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
- Controls finances in the household without discussion
- Takes your money
- Refuses to provide money for necessary expenses
“Violent people are usually controlling and can be manipulative,” says Ross. “If you feel threatened or are afraid in any way, that is not a healthy relationship. No one deserves to be bullied, put down, made fun of or trapped.”
Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself
Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t easy and can take not only time but also a lot of planning. Our experts offer their best advice to help you protect yourself and escape domestic abuse.
- Don’t antagonize.
“If violence escalates, keep calm and head to a safe spot,” says Ross. “Never yell or antagonize your abuser. Head to a place in the house with a door, exit or window to get out.”
- Reach out.
“Let someone know that you may be in danger,” says Ross. “Come up with a code word that you can say to a family member, friend or neighbor if you need help.”
- Get professional help.
“Contact a Risk Management Consultant like me and get advice from a family law attorney,” advises Sacramento attorney and homicide prevention specialist Alexis Moore. “There are issues when one leaves the home, for example, that depend upon the jurisdiction. Restraining orders often trigger homicide, so they are not always the best option, and victims need to know all options, not just the standard restraining order as being the ‘solution.’”
- Prepare a bag.
“Save some money or create a personal bank account in case you need to flee the house,” says Jimena Picciano. A licensed marriage family therapist and owner of Hispanic Therapy in the Bay Area of California, where she focuses on trauma, depression, and anxiety. “Have an extra set of clothes in your car if you need to leave, and keep all your personal documents (ID, passports, insurance) in a safe space.”
Finally, Jewsbury urges you to stay strong. “If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse, it’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself for getting involved or for staying,” she stresses.
As a survivor, she opted to turn her experience into a kind of personal therapy that, in turn, helps others. “It wasn’t until I began documenting my story on paper that I realized how bad the abuse was,” she says. “I was a strong, independent woman prior to this relationship, yet I fell victim. I also learned how prevalent domestic violence is in society.”
Technology Can Assist
Smart home technology could also be a tool that saves your life. Many of the best home security systems are both affordable and reliable, and they can provide the proof you need to press charges against your abuser. These cameras can serve as an extra set of eyes to watch over what happens in your home – especially if you have children or pets.
However, just as you can use smart home tech, your abuser can just as easily use it against you. Remain vigilant in sweeping your home for cameras or alarms and check your router for anything not immediately visible.
Help and Support for Domestic Violence
If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home, many resources can help. Both the Department of Justice and FindLaw offer comprehensive listings of state-specific resources, and there are several national organizations and hotlines that stand ready to help.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
24/7 hotline and resource for domestic violence victims and survivors
Phone Number: 1-800-799-7233 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Love is Respect
Resources and support for domestic violence with a focus on healthy relationships
Phone Number: 1-866-331-9474
Resource dedicated to child abuse
Phone Number: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Free technical assistance, training and resource materials for domestic violence intervention and prevention
Phone Number: 1-800-537-2238
National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Improves health care response to domestic violence by working with health care practitioners, administrators, domestic violence experts, survivors and policymakers
Phone Number: 1-888-792-2873
A comprehensive listing of shelters and resources for domestic violence victims
National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN)
24/7 hotline and support for sexual assault victims and survivors
Phone: 1-800-656-HOPE 1-800-656-4673
Website: https: www.rainn.org/contact-us
Domestic violence assistance and support
Phone Number: 1-800-621-HOPE
National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
An easy-to-understand legal resource in cooperation with WomensLaw.org
Phone Number: 1-800-799-7233 TTY 1-800-787-3224
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
Native nonprofit that addresses domestic violence for Indian women in conjunction with the National Indian Resource Center (NIRC)
Phone Number: 1-855-649-7299
Battered Women’s Justice Project Criminal and Civil Justice Center
Tackles the legal issues of domestic violence and provides technical support to advocates, attorneys, judges and law enforcement
Phone Number: 1-800-903-0111, ext 1
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
Offers comprehensive and culturally-sensitive support to survivors and their children who have experienced trauma from domestic abuse
Phone Number: 312-726-7020
Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody
Provides resources and assistance regarding child protection and custody
Phone Number: 1-800-527-3223
National LGBTQ Institute on Intimate Partner Violence
Committed to the safety and security of bisexual, trans, lesbian and gay victims of domestic and dating violence
Phone Number: 206-568-7777