You are not alone: Seek help for domestic violence during COVID-19
- While instances of domestic violence are on the rise, calls to some national hotlines have declined.
- Victims of abuse may have fewer opportunities to seek safe care outside the house.
- Resources include national organizations, community support and your doctor.
[3 MIN READ]
Home is supposed to be a sanctuary: a place of peace and comfort and a space to restore your body, mind and spirit. But for more than 12 million men and women in the United States who are victims of domestic violence each year, home can be anything but safe.
Now, as COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities, victims may have fewer opportunities to be out of the house and to safely seek the help and support they need. That, coupled with the added stress of living through a global pandemic, can make an unsafe situation even more troubling.
More alarmingly, emergency departments across the country are reporting a rise in severe injuries from child abuse.
If you need help, remember that you are not alone. Community organizations, health professionals and many others are here for you, whether you are the victim of domestic violence, or you know children who are sheltered in place with an abuser.
Where to seek help
Though instances of domestic violence are on the rise during COVID-19, calls to some national hotlines have declined. That’s because it can be more difficult to get the resources and advice you need when an abusive partner is always home with you. If you are able to, connect with one of these trusted organizations:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE or chat online. Learn what to expect when you call.
- Alliance for Hope International: This national agency provides many different resources for adults and children who are survivors of domestic abuse. There are 24 supported centers in California alone. Find resources near you.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV): The NCADV advocates for policy changes to protect and serve victims and survivors of domestic violence, and shares resources and education to support men, women and children.
Your primary care provider can help, too
Your nurse or doctor may have asked you at your last wellness exam or most recent appointment if you feel safe at home. More and more frequently, primary care providers are asking all patients how things are going at home – not out of judgement, but as a way to give patients the opportunity and safe space they may need to get help.
Your primary care provider is trained to – and passionate about – helping you be healthy. That includes supporting you in body, mind and spirit. They can connect you with support, community organizations and resources. And, as your advocate, everything you discuss in the office is confidential.
If you need help but aren’t sure where to start, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. You can speak with them privately in the office or during a virtual visit.
How you can help a loved one
Paying attention and being a supportive ear can go a long way in being there for a family member, friend or even colleague who may be facing domestic violence at home. It’s also important to be able to recognize warning signs, so that you can be sure you’re the safe space your loved one needs.
Warning signs of abuse may include:
- Physical signs, such as bruising, frequent injuries, busted lips, sprained wrists or repeated injuries are red flags. You may notice your loved one regularly wears concealing clothing to cover up these signs, despite the weather.
- Emotional signs can be harder to identify. These may include anxiety, depression, loss of interest in daily activities and even appearing overly apologetic or meek.
- Behavior changes may also be a sign that something is amiss. A friend who is usually sunny and outgoing may become quiet or reserved. Or, a family member may start to cancel meetings or get-togethers with you at the last minute.
Sometimes, you may notice your loved one’s significant other has controlling behaviors, such as limiting your loved one’s access to money or a vehicle. They may even require your friend to constantly check in when they’re out with you or ask for permission before going somewhere.
If you’re worried about your loved one, you can seek help, too. Organizations, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, often field calls from concerned friends and family members. They can help empower you to have a supportive conversation with your loved one and be respectful and sensitive to your loved one’s needs and privacy concerns.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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