As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, isolating at home and social distancing is encouraged to protect our communities. Unfortunately, home may not be a safe place for many families experiencing domestic violence. Domestic violence is also known as intimate partner violence. Recognizing violence as a social determinant of health CHI is honoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month during October 2020.
Nationally, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. Survivors of domestic violence make more lifetime visits to health providers and are at an increased risk for many chronic diseases, mental health conditions, and are at greater risk for injuries including death. The impact of COVID-19 on the rates of domestic violence and long-term impacts on victims are still unknown; however, historical data suggests that rates of intimate partner violence increase during pandemics and times of economic crisis. This seems to be holding true with many domestic violence programs reporting an increase in hotline calls and protection order requests, and increases in law enforcement calls for service related to domestic violence.
COVID-19 has caused serious economic devastation, separated many from loved ones, and disconnected people from resources and support. It has also created anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. These risk factors can often spark domestic violence in families where it wasn’t previously present and fuel frequency and severity of domestic violence in families that have a history of abuse. Prior to COVID-19, a survivor of domestic violence could leave a violent situation, file a protective order, and readily access services. Unfortunately these options may not be easily available right now and these challenges can force victims to stay in a dangerous situation.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests COVID-19 is impacting intimate partner violence survivors in a variety of ways; including:
- Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.
- Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
- Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.
- Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with others.
- Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.
- Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.
- An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.
In the midst of COVID-19, this Domestic Violence Awareness month we encourage everyone to do #1Thing to show that domestic violence has no place in our community. Each unique act contributes to creating a collective movement towards a world without violence. Visit our facebook page to share your #1Thing or learn more about what you can do to prevent domestic violence by visiting our website. Everyone deserves to have safe and healthy relationships. If you need help or would like more information contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a confidential 24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or www.thehotline.org.
(Veronica Zietz, MBA, CHI ND Violence Prevention Program, obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of North Dakota and an MBA from University of Colorado. She has a background in nonprofit leadership and program development. Veronica joined CHI St. Alexius Health and launched the statewide CHI ND Violence Prevention Program in 2015. The program was founded to prevent intimate partner violence in eight CHI communities. Veronica works with community partners and businesses to provide professional education and healthy relationship programming.)