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How the COVID-19 pandemic can affect domestic abuse victims

March 23, 2020

A woman looking out a window

The COVID-19 emergency has touched every Minnesotan’s life in one way or another. Most of us are staying home much more than we’re accustomed to. For some, it provides a chance to spend more time with our families and pets. But for others, home is the most dangerous place they can be.

That’s because, for many domestic abuse survivors, a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic just makes things worse. Domestic abuse looks different in every relationship, but in every case, it’s a mechanism to gain power and control. The pandemic is likely to have many impacts in a household, including employment instability, emotional stress, financial stress and isolation ­– all significant stressors that could prompt violence by an abusive partner.

A common aspect of abuse is isolation: The abuser cuts off their victim’s ties to family, friends, and coworkers – anyone they could go to for help. Such isolation is only exacerbated by social distancing. If the victim is laid off or working at home, for example, there will be no one to notice if they don’t show up one day.

What’s more, victims of abuse are less likely to seek help with any medical issue, including being tested for COVID-19, for fear that health care providers will discover the abuse and inadvertently worsen their situation. Health care workers who are usually on the front lines with abuse victims may be pulled in other directions to deal with the pandemic. And survivors of domestic violence could run a greater risk of getting sick due to long-term stress and avoiding medical attention for their injuries, both physical and mental, over time.

Whether you’re a victim service provider or a friend, you can use technology to check on domestic abuse survivors during this public health crisis. Remember that they have a lot fewer options available to them now. Fortunately, the Minnesota Day One Crisis Line is fully operational. It’s a statewide 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. Victims and survivors can call 866-223-1111 or visit the crisis line’s website.