As the U.S. fights to contain the spread of COVID-19, Americans are being told to stay home. But what happens when home isn’t safe?
While social distancing benefits those most at risk of becoming seriously ill, it can make others more vulnerable, including victims of domestic violence. When survivors are forced to stay in their homes or in close proximity to their abusers, it can create circumstances where their safety is compromised. Because abusers use any tool to exert power and control over their victims, a national health concern such as COVID-19 is no different.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, there are a number of unique impacts that COVID-19 may have on domestic violence, which include:
- 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 even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.
- 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.
Advocates at Embrace are working hard to creatively and safely provide essential services to survivors, despite the many regulations and precautionary procedures in place. The Embrace 24/7 crisis support line remains staffed as well as the safe shelter located in Rusk County. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting measures are being practiced as well as increased physical distancing. Advocates located across Washburn, Barron, Rusk and Price counties will still be scheduling appointments with victims primarily via telephone and other remote platforms.
Concern still arises despite services being offered remotely. Victims typically seek help when their abusers aren't around. But the restrictions around COVID-19 mean many victims are constantly with their abusers, making reaching out for help that much more difficult. Advocates suggest now is a good time to reach out to discuss a safety plan that is tailored to your unique situation.
Embrace Services, Inc.: Embrace is the leading voice and comprehensive advocacy services provider for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the four-county service area of Northwestern Wisconsin. At Embrace, we provide unwavering support to survivors. Through education and awareness, we engage our communities and create multi-disciplinary partnerships to increase safety and equity advancing our mission of ending gender-based violence. We strive to create a courageous social change that will end all forms of oppression in our communities. Everyone deserves healthy communities and the support to thrive.
We encourage reporters to include the following information in their stories for victims who need help: If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or sexual assault, you are not alone! It is not your fault. Embrace is here to help. Contact Embrace for free, confidential advocacy and support at 1.800.924.0556 or text at 715.532.6976.