I am a planner. Having been subjected to domestic abuse and having to put a safety plan in place (more than once), I am one that is always looking into the future, playing through as many potential scenarios as possible, planning for worst-case scenarios, then living for the best.
With so many news outlets now talking about the rise in domestic violence (DV) during the COVID-19 stay at home orders, it got me thinking about a couple of things.
First of all, I created a video to let victims know that while we cannot prevent the abuse when it does happen they can be proactive in storing their evidence, the details of their abuse so when they are able or ready, they will have a legally admissible report to help them through the process.
Second, while many Justice Centers are closed, most domestic shelters are open. The issue I’m hearing is the victims’ ability to reach out or get to a shelter. It takes a coordinated effort to do so and physical distancing adds layers of challenges. Many victims leave when their partner has gone to work or otherwise left the home. Being confined at home makes it almost impossible to have time to pack what you need to get out. Leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time – the abuser realizes they are losing control and lashes out with desperate and potentially life-threatening violence.
Third, we hear people say, “Well, why don’t they just call the cops?” I hate (yes, HATE) it when people say that. Calling the police is not always the safest option. While it does serve a purpose to defuse a volatile situation, the reality is police can’t always see circumstances for what they are. I hear victims recount how they call for help and when the police arrive, the abuser (often a master manipulator) convinces the officers that it was the victim that turned on them and they were just defending themselves. It becomes a “he-said, she-said” situation where the evidence in the moment makes it impossible to tell what really occurred.
So what’s my point to all this? We ARE seeing a spike in DV incidents right now – no doubt. But I strongly believe it is just scratching the surface of what is really happening. What I personally worry about is what happens after we are allowed to go back out – when businesses and service organizations begin to open. Shelters and our court systems, like the current situation with unemployment offices, will be overwhelmed. At the first sign of normalcy, victims are going to be at their breaking point and will want… NEED to get out.
So what can you do?
- If you are a friend to a victim, LISTEN. They’ll need a shoulder and an ear. Don’t tell them what they should do, as they get enough of that from their abusers. Offer to be a good friend and a better listener.
- Donate a license to the VictimsVoice tool so when they are ready to get out, they have their evidence neatly packaged and ready to help them.
- DONATE to your local Domestic Violence nonprofit. They will be overwhelmed, understaffed, and underfunded. They will need your help!
To all of you, stay safe and be healthy. Most of all, give hope because HOPE > fear.
Sheri L Kurdakul