You haven’t been able to leave the house for 11 days because of the stay-at-home order — and because they won’t let you leave. The bruises along your arms from being grabbed last night make your shoulder ache and you might have severely hurt your knee last night from the fall.
As you scroll through social media you see people talk about all this free time. But you also see people talk about how they are breaking the rules. Going Out. Seeing Friends. Protesting the shutdown.
Tears well in your eyes as you begin to realize this stay-at-home order might not be over on May 1st. This might just be the beginning. The beginning of the possible end for you.
And people just don’t realize: they aren’t staying home just for themselves. They’re staying home so people can finally leave theirs.
These can easily be the thoughts of a survivor in a domestic violence case right now in the United States and around the world.
While everyone is finding time to explore their hobbies, love on their family and binge-watch their Netflix shows, people are fighting daily for their safety, their freedom and their lives.
“The biggest thing is that being in that type of situation for an extended period of time, especially with people having their children at home, the stress being increased, we could see more violence taking place and the severity of it could even be worse,” said Mercedes Carr, a prevention specialist at A Better Way, a crisis shelter in Muncie, Indiana.
Carr mentioned how many people probably wouldn’t think about these kinds of things at this time but it’s still a real issue and a real threat to those experiencing it at home. Which is why A Better Way is still open, 24/7, 7 days a week for those who are in need.
“All they have to do is call the hotline and we will asses them and make sure they have the resources that they need in order to leave that situation,” Carr said of those who are in need of assistance. “We are still open, we’re still serving our clients and we’re still willing to help any way we can.”
A Better Way is also still accepting donations from those who want to help, from food to hygiene products, although clothes donations are currently paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite the pandemic, A Better Way hasn’t seen an influx in calls or any callers saying the pandemic is making things worse for them. However, the board at the National Domestic Violence Hotline has an answer as to why.
“At this time, we are not experiencing significant increases in contact volume due to COVID-19, but we wouldn’t expect to just yet. With survivors in such close proximity to their abusers, it can be less safe to reach out for support,” they said. “Survivors often reach out when they are alone or somewhere they can talk and ask questions and that can be hard to do right now.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24 hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year support system for those affected by relationship abuse. They have trained advocates who answer calls, texts, chats and any other form of communication confidentially and give the survivor whatever information they may need.
Despite The Hotline also not having an influx of calls, that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting calls about how the pandemic is making victims’ lives harder than ever before. They have had 4,449 survivors contact them and cite COVID-19 as a condition of their current experience between March 16th to April 26th.
Survivors are reporting situations such as:
-> Their abuser was using the virus as a scare tactic to keep the survivor away from their kids
-> Their abuser using COVID-19 as a scare tactic so they don’t go see friends and family
-> Their abuser physically abusing them because they believe the survivor is trying to infect them with COVID-19
The Hotline isn’t surprised that the pandemic is causing problems for survivors. The pandemic is a barrier for those to get help who need it.
The normal places of help, such as shelters or stop intake homes are either closed or at full capacity. With restrictions on travel and movement, it may be too big of a risk for them to leave or they might not physically be able to.
Which is why it’s so important for people to stay aware — and stay inside.
“Isolation is one of the strongest tactics an abuser can use, so building community around a survivor is really important. Schedule some time to say hello from a distance or mail a postcard to let them know they are not alone,” The Hotline said.
The Hotline also mentioned using nonsupportive language if you think someone is a domestic violence situation as to not alert their abuser. If you physically see someone get abused, make sure to call 911.
For those in need or those who know someone in need, they can call 911 or call The Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). People can also text the hotline if they can’t speak. For those in the Muncie, area, they can call A Better Way at 765-288-HELP.
“It’s super important to remain vigilant and watchful. If you see something, say something,” Carr said. “The sooner people follow the instructions, the sooner people can come out and function the way they need to.”