The Coronavirus has been spreading across all regions of the globe like a wildfire; leaving a significant number of dead people behind, saturating health facilities, ravaging the economy and creating unique conditions to catalyze domestic abuse. Social distancing measures have been put in place in almost all parts of the world to curb the spread of the virus and to avoid overcrowding health care facilities. In as much as it has been an efficient method to flatten the curve, and keep people safe at home, it has also trapped abuse victims with their abusers at home.
The truth is, not everyone is safe at home. While some people are trying to stay clear of the threat outside in the form of COVID-19 and are also able to find solace in the loving care of family members. Others face a more familiar threat within the four walls of their home; one that can be much scarier than the unfamiliar pandemic. Considering that a home is supposed to be a safe haven for its occupants, the home has actually become a nightmare for abuse victims, one they can’t wait to wake up from.
Prior to the coronavirus, abuse victims had more options to help them stay away from their abusers as much as possible. They could arrive at work much earlier than they were expected to. They could go and visit friends and other family members after work. They could prolong their stay at a grocery store. The ultimate goal would have been to spend as little time as possible at home. So, now what can they do, given that they are trapped at home with their abusers?
You should consider leaving! You have probably survived this abusive relationship for a while now, and you might have learned to cope with it. It is common knowledge that abuse tends to increase during times of hardship. However, the effects of COVID-19 have created unique conditions for this to get even worse. Besides the fact that you have been trapped in your home with your abuser, this pandemic has also increased financial hardship and stress which would only add more gas to the fire. Although leaving your home now might not be ideal due to the pandemic, it could be safer than staying at home if the abuse escalates.
There are domestic violence shelters which are open during the quarantine and are taking precautionary measures to protect the people there. You could also consider staying with a friend, family member, or neighbor, in the meantime. Even if you don’t think that leaving now is the best solution, you should have an emergency bag containing your identifications, some money and any important documents ready just in case. Hide it from your abuser. If s/he discovers it, you can tell him or her that you prepared the bag just in case you had to rush to the hospital for COVID-19 related reasons. These are lessons learned in life from a survivor.
If you are able to, another thing you should consider doing is to call a hotline for some advice. While you are planning or thinking about what to do to tackle this situation; calling a domestic abuse hotline will give you insight and help you make a more informed decision. The hotline can help you know which precautions to take, the location of the nearest shelter from your home and what to do to protect your children. Just make sure you call when you or your abuser is away from the home.
The last thing you can do is try to protect your mental health. This might be even more challenging for you to do now than it has ever been, but it is going to be worth it. Try to find ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Take a walk, talk to a close friend about your situation, get enough sleep, learn lessons in life from other abuse survivors, and avoid conflict as much as you can.
You are strong, determined, courageous, and resilient and you won’t be in this situation forever. There will be a way out for you eventually. Stay strong, stay safe, and plan accordingly.