How you can help fight domestic violence in COVID lockdown

Coronavirus pandemic complicates domestic violence for victims of abuse
Coronavirus pandemic complicates domestic violence for victims of abuse

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In 2019, nearly 20 people per minute were physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care. And now with widespread lockdowns, financial strain, and social isolation, these abusive patterns may be getting worse.

At the beginning of COVID lockdown, domestic violence hotlines saw calls and reports soar. But now, those calls have all but disappeared. And those that are familiar with domestic violence know this might not be a good sign. Here’s what you can do to make a difference.

“It’s all about power and control,” said Carol Wick, CEO of Sharity Global.

But now COVID has closed all of our doors.

“Anytime there is a natural disaster, any kind of crisis, abusers become stressed. And when they become stressed the need for power and control increases,” said Wick.

So, what are the best ways to help?

“The most important message you can give is ‘I’m worried about you and I’m here for you,’” said Wick.

Watch for red flags like rudeness, anger, possessiveness, isolation, emotional changes, and unexplained injuries. Reach out as often as you can.

Only offer up your home if you also have a safety plan in place. Abusers are likely to come after you as well.

Decide on a code word and offer resources like burner phones, emergency hotline numbers, or apps like OneLove that offer free abuse risk assessments that you can download on your phone to offer to them.

But if your loved one isn’t yet able to take those steps, never attack or blame victims for staying.

“And so ‘just leaving’ is actually the number one time most women are murdered,” said Wick.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

There are also local agencies available:

  • The Florida Domestic Violence Hotline, which will direct you to the nearest shelter: 1-800-500-1119
  • Hubbard House: Call 904-354-3114 or text 904-210-3698 to confidentially connect with an advocate: https://www.hubbardhouse.org/
  • Women’s Center of Jacksonville: 24-hour rape crisis hotline is 904-721-7273.
  • Family Life Center (Flagler County): familylifecenterflagler.org or 386-437-3505
  • Micah’s Place (Nassau County): micahsplace.org or 904-225-9979
  • Betty Griffin Center (St. Johns County): bettygriffincenter.org or 904-824-1555
  • Quigley House (Clay County): quigleyhouse.org or 904-284-0061
  • Lee Conlee House (Putnam County): leeconleehouse.org or 386-325-3141
  • Peaceful Paths (Bradford, Alachua & Union counties): peacefulpaths.org or 352-377-8255