COVID policies such as working remotely and sheltering in place might be combating the pandemic, but for many abuse victims, home isolation is a dangerous option. Combined with the pandemic’s financial and emotional burdens, domestic violence poses a growing threat to safety. Below is a proposed safety plan with practical methods to help victims protect themselves and get help despite the current circumstances.
- Do your own research about the pandemic, as abusive partners may share misinformation to frighten you from seeking medical attention.
- Be aware that violent tendencies may escalate under current shelter-in-place policies.
- Try to ensure access to sanitizer and disinfectant.
- Try and ensure that your insurance cards are with you.
- Find the “safest room”, or a low-risk area of the house, to move to during an argument. Hide potential weapons and locate exits to the outside.
- Designate a safe space in your house that can be used to call emergency services using an old cellphone. Always keep a phone charger on you, and wear clothing with pockets to carry both.
- Stay in contact with friends and family either online or over the phone in case of an emergency. Establish a “code word” to alert them for help.
- Establish and use discrete code words with your children to alert them to leave a room or call for help.
- Pack a bag for a quick escape that includes any important documents and medication.
- Make sure you have adequate access to food during the pandemic by rationing quantities, hiding small amounts, or reaching out to local food pantries still in operation.
- Find an outlet for isolation self-care such as journaling, physical activity, reading or meditating.
- Utilize online and phone helplines as an alternative to the limited accessibility of abuse shelters currently.
- Look into emergency custody petitions pertaining to the safety of your children. Visit WomensLaw.org for information on adjusted court operations.
- Call the police in the case of any life-threatening emergency.
- Contact your local clinics or domestic violence agencies to alert them of your situation and get additional information about staying safe during the pandemic.
Sources: National Domestic Violence Hotline, Mayo Clinic, and Women Against Abuse