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When staying at home means staying with your abuser

April 16, 2020

A woman looking out a window

The governor’s stay at home order has put Minnesotans in close quarters. In some cases, tempers fray and tensions rise – but for most, it’s more of an annoyance than anything. Not so for victims of sexual and other violence. For them, it can exacerbate the dangers they already face.

Being in quarantine with an abuser can increase a victim’s risk factors for violence. For example, leaving the house less (or not at all) increases the victim’s isolation: there’s no one to notice outward signs of abuse. Increased isolation can also create barriers to a victim’s ability to get help. And if they had an exit strategy already in place, social distancing and the stay at home order may force them to postpone those plans, with potentially devastating results.

It’s important to know that most of the sources of help for victims of sexual and domestic violence are still up and running. Rape survivors can still find local victim advocacy programs through And the Minnesota DayOne Crisis Line (call 866-223-1111 or text 612-399-9995) provides help for those experiencing domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking. Courts are still operating so that victims can get restraining orders, and you can still call 911 in an emergency (don’t forget to text if it’s unsafe to call).

If you have a friend or loved one who is a victim of domestic and/or sexual violence, there are ways you can support them during this pandemic. You can call or text to check on them. Even just a casual hello will help them remember that they are not alone. If it is safe to do so, encourage them to have a safety plan in place. This could include establishing a code word or phrase. Be sure to pre-establish what you will do if they use the code word. You can also help them come up with an exit plan -- determine a friend or family member they could stay with if they have to get out, and have a “go bag” packed with a change of clothes, essential medications, and a prepaid cell phone. You can find these and other safety plan suggestions on the, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline..

The stay-at-home order has shut down a lot of businesses and services, at least for the time being. But if you or someone you know is quarantined with an abuser, try to remember that there are still people out there who can help. Try not to lose hope.