The COVID-19 Pandemic has created more than just economic hardship; it’s also believed to be responsible for a higher rate of domestic violence (DV) incidents. While the specifics of this destructive behavior are unique to each family, the consequences are often the same: trauma, injuries, pain, and loss. Fortunately, there are services across America, and here in Connecticut, that can help victims of this abuse get away from their abusers. They can also inform friends and neighbors about what they can do if they suspect someone they care for is living in a dangerous domestic situation.
Pandemic Escalates Internal Stress
As early as April, just weeks after the Pandemic was declared, the number of calls into the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) rose by 15% over the same month in 2019, and in the following weeks, similar numbers were reported across the country. However, that case-number trajectory did not continue into the summer, and experts believe that the mandates now in place because of COVID-19 are responsible not just for more DV cases, but also for preventing victims from reporting their situation. The recommended ‘stay at home’ orders mean that spouses living with hostile or abusive mates are now essentially trapped at home with them. Making things worse: having that person nearby all the time also inhibits or prevents the opportunity to reach out to support services. Victims in these houses are doubly taxed by being both more vulnerable and less able to get away.
- The closing of thousands of businesses due to the coronavirus put millions of employees out of work, causing immense economic and financial chaos throughout the country. Losing one’s job is one of life’s top stress inducers.
- Those families that were already struggling with health concerns are now finding the struggle even more difficult to manage. Medicines are delayed or even unavailable; healthcare professionals are ‘otherwise engaged,’ and caregivers are more stressed than ever, dealing with the round-the-clock demands of a sick family member.
- Isolation, in general, individually or in family groups, also increases stress. Not having access to a trusted support network escalates a potential victim’s fear and perceived level of danger. Grievances between housemates are often magnified when there are no outside resources available to act as stress releases.
These stressors are especially dangerous in those who tend to display aggressive or abusive behaviors anyway. Already volatile, they flair when they sense a loss of control, a sense of embarrassment, or they’re just exhausted from the stress of being contained for an extended time.
Connecticut Isn’t Immune
Connecticut is following the national trend: ‘domestic calls‘ to the Hartford Police increased by over 13% between March and June, while Norwich and East Lyme both saw increases, as well. And the number of ‘lethality assessments’ also went up. These investigations ask 11 questions of suspected DV victims to determine whether abuse occurred and whether it posed a ‘high danger’ to family members. Comparing the same six-month period from 2019 to 2020, the number of lethality assessments rose by 18%, and almost half of those were deemed ‘high danger.’
Services and Help are Available
Knowing that there are actions to take and assistance to receive can give peace of mind to anyone experiencing (or in fear of experiencing) physical, emotional, or psychological attacks from a spouse or housemate, whether induced by the Pandemic or not.
Actions to Take:
Regardless of whether the abusive situation arose before or after the COVID-19 Pandemic onset, no one should experience violence in their home by a housemate or spouse. Knowing what to do first can help a victim extricate themself from the situation, and give guidance to those who want to offer assistance:
- Think through the process of getting out– Often, victims feel overwhelmed by the barriers they see as much as by the fear that they feel. Pushing through those barriers is a goal in itself.
- Understand the signs– Although every volatile person is different, they often use similar tactics to frighten their victims. Yelling, insults, bullying, and explosive bursts are all indicators that someone is out of control and potentially dangerous. Physical attacks can include hitting and slapping, as well as bruising, pinching, or any other action that causes pain, with or without marks.
- Collect available resources – Be prepared by having a variety of resources ready to go if an escape option becomes available:
- Financial resources include both cash and credit cards, safety deposit box keys, and banking information;
- identification cards and documents;
- health insurance information;
- marriage and birth certificates;
- any records that may be evidence of the abuse, such as photos, letters, prior police reports, etc.
Seek out support:
Many Connecticut-based services offer assistance to both sufferers of DV abuse, and those who suspect someone they love is being abused.
- The State Attorney General’s Office provides a helpful list of resources organized by region. Its pamphlet also details how to obtain restraining and protective orders and how to contact state-based support services.
- The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers a wealth of information for anyone concerned about a potential domestic violence situation:
- Its CTSafeConnectbrochure helps victims clarify their situation so they can make better decisions for themselves.
- Its resources cover a range of factors (under the “Find Help” tab) that may be relevant depending on the circumstances, including information about brain injuries, for communities of color, for the elderly, and for refugees and immigrants, among other specific populations.
- There is specific information there, too, for friends and families of people in a DV situation, including what physical and emotional signs might indicate a violent home life, and how to help without making the situation worse.
- It also helps to explain the legal ramifications of DV in any situation, including during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In many cases, a caring and experienced lawyer offers the best support and protection for a DV victim because they bring the justice system’s weight into the matter. With this level of intervention, the abuser often loses their power over the victim, and the victim regains the personal balance they’ve lost.
COVID-19 has already decimated too many families, even those without a fear of domestic violence. If your significant relationship is difficult or you know someone who you suspect is in danger, you’ll find the assistance you need in the offices of attorney Rich Rochlin.