Guest Post by Naomi Jubilee, Administrative Assistant, Called to Peace Ministries
If you’ve seen the news, you probably haven’t heard about the sharp increase in domestic abuse. The news is mostly focused on COVID-19 case numbers, stay at home timelines, and whether or not we have to wear a mask. “New estimates from the United Nations Population Fund suggest that three months of quarantine will result in a 20 percent rise in IPV throughout the world. In total, the report predicts at least 15 million additional cases of IPV will occur as a result of COVID- 19 lockdowns.”* What happens when the abuser works from home? What happens when a domestic abuse victim can’t just get out of the house because he’s raging? What happens when schools are closed and the children are all home as well?
At first, a lot of quiet. Part of my work for Called to Peace is helping moderate a large, online support group for domestic abuse victims/survivors. When the stay at home orders started in our state, the conversations stopped. The women still living with their abusers were now more monitored. How do you safely check on someone you know is living in an abusive home? You have to wait, hoping they are truly safe. Texting them at the wrong time could be even more dangerous.
Next, a lot of similar stories. The current victims are still mostly silent, but it’s the single mom survivors who are talking. “My abuser won’t bring the children back to me because of my job; he says I’m probably exposed.”
“My abuser won’t bring the children back to me because he’s been taking them everywhere and one of his family members tested positive, so he says he needs to quarantine the children with him.”
“My abuser should be in jail for violating the protective order but the courts are closed.”
“My children came home with bruises, but child protective services refused to investigate fully because of COVID-19 and dismissed the case as not having enough evidence.”
I only wish I was making up these stories.
Then there’s the financial component. Many survivors have lost jobs and taken temporary jobs at grocery stores or are still out of work. Some of their abusers have lost jobs and decided not to pay them child support. Some were excited at the prospect of a stimulus check to recoup their losses. A great number have watched this money be deposited into a joint account and withdrawn by their separated or divorced spouses. All we can hope is that they get some of it, eventually. Legal actions to claim their portion would cost more than the money they would get.
As the lockdown becomes extended, victims find new ways to communicate carefully. Some are actively working to get out, but there’s nowhere to go. So many are reaching out for advocacy because it’s hard enough making a safety plan in normal times. Random people on social media are posting for people to message them to buy fake beauty supplies as a sign they need help. The trouble with that tactic is the abusers are reading those posts too.
How can you help? Check on your friends, especially the quiet ones, even the ones you think have amazing husbands. Abusers are incredibly good actors in public and victims are incredibly good at hiding the abuse. Invite your friends out for socially-distanced coffee or a walk where they can talk freely. Let them use your phone to talk on thehotline.org where their abuser can’t track their history
so they can make a safety plan.* Pray for them.
“Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.”
Called to Peace Ministries has support groups and advocates who are trained to help women in domestic abuse situations. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.