It is usually counterintuitive to depict the home as an unsafe space. People generally associate home with comfort, quarantine with safety from outside elements. Now more than ever, we are being encouraged to stay at home and avoid outside exposure. The experience of stress that family members report when being confined together for extended amounts of time typically falls within normal range. But for victims of domestic abuse, the experience of being quarantined with their abusive partner poses a much more significant risk.
According to the 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women and one in seven men experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The CDC also reports that in the time since social distancing went into effect, there has been an increase in calls to domestic abuse hotlines.
Jewish Family Service is participating in a local, collaborative advisory committee to help people stay safe during the area’s stay home order and beyond. Resources include the Shalom Task Force Hotline (888-883-2323), the National Domestic Abuse Hotline (800-799-7233), and the Cincinnati Jewish Community COVID-19 hotline (513-766-3333).
All hotlines are entirely anonymous and will help the caller develop a “safety plan,” a dynamic, ever-changing discussion or plan to help someone keep safe in an abusive situation. These plans also include ways to stay safe while in a relationship where the couple lives together, while in a dating relationship, when planning to leave a relationship, and after the relationship is over.
It is important to remember that when someone is in quarantine with their abuser, a call to a hotline or professional may be dangerous, and there are steps that could be taken in the interim to help keep everyone safe. For instance, if a person is able to predict triggers and anticipate escalations, they can try to placate the abuser to somehow diffuse the situation. This does not shift responsibility to the victim but may help them remain as safe as possible during the stay home order or quarantine.
- Do you notice patterns of occurrence of the abuse?
- Do you notice certain behaviors leading up to an incident or episode?
- Do you notice certain changes in appearance attitude, facial expression, etc. before an episode?
By noticing these patterns, you may be able to act sooner and avoid certain places or situations where violence is likely to occur. You should find safe areas around your house where there are no weapons as well as ways to escape.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. In general, it is best to stay out of the kitchen or bathroom.
- Practice different scenarios of how to get out of the house or to a safe area.
- If possible, have a small bag that includes your ID, medication, some cash—but in an emergency, just leave; don’t delay yourself to collect these items.
- Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
- If possible, have a (fully charged) phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help.
These tips and suggestions are just scratching the surface. Once again, you can find more help by calling the Shalom Task Force Hotline (888-883-2323), the National Domestic Abuse Hotline (800-799-7233), or the Cincinnati Jewish Community COVID-19 hotline (513-766-3333).