While social distancing can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, staying home may not be the safest option for many domestic abuse survivors. Outside factors that add stress and financial strain can create circumstances where a victim’s safety is further compromised. Domestic violence or abuse, also called intimate partner violence, is not the same as an occasional argument between partners. It is a pattern of abuse used by one person to control another.
Both men and women experience intimate partner violence, which is a form of violent behavior and a major problem in the United States. About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced unwanted sexual contact, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Additionally, more than 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.
Warning signs that may indicate someone who you care about is in an abusive relationship include:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people.
- Constant worry about making their partner angry.
- Making excuses for their partner’s behavior.
- Jealous or possessive behavior by their partner.
- Unexplained marks or injuries.
- Depression, anxiety, or noticeable changes in their personality.
There may be more specific forms of abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as withholding cleaning supplies from a partner or deliberately exposing a partner to high-risk situations. Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic or prevent their partners from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
If you are concerned that someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, you should consult with an expert on the best way to intervene. The National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends the following approach with loved ones who might be in an abusive relationship:
- Express your concerns gently and in a non-judgmental way.
- Encourage your loved one to create a safety plan.
- Encourage your loved one to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Provide them the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- Remember that you cannot “rescue” anyone from domestic abuse. Continue to be supportive, no matter what your loved one decides to do.
- Access to domestic violence shelters may be limited due to COVID-19. Ask your loved one to consider staying with family or friends.
For more information and guidance on helping someone who is experiencing intimate partner violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also contact your Component Employee Assistance Program for guidance and resources.