Janine Phillips | YWCA MV Support Group Coordinator
For many people,
home is their haven and safe place as the world battles this international health crisis: Coronavirus, or COVID-19. But for many people, home is a battlefront of a different kind.
Domestic violence doesn’t go away because we are facing a world-wide health pandemic. As the COVID-19 death toll rises, abusers do not soften their verbal, mental, emotional, or physical blows. In fact, the stresses associated with public crisis, possibly becoming infected, financial worries due to loss of income, school closings, cabin fever, etc., can contribute to an environment full of triggers for the abusive partner.
So how do domestic violence survivors stay safe if they are quarantined in the same household with their abuser? Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones safely get through a quarantine during the outbreak.
Develop a Safety Plan
Safety plans save lives.
- Create a written safety plan.
- Involve the children when creating your written safety plan. Create a safe word for them so they know when to run or call for help.
- In addition to safe words, write phone numbers down or have the children program emergency numbers into their phones so that they know who to call when the safe word is used.
- Teach them to stay in areas where there is an exit in case they have to flee.
- Stay out of the kitchen and bathroom. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, these two rooms can be more dangerous because they usually have a number of objects that can be used as weapons.
- Alert the neighbors to call the police if they hear an argument break out.
For more tips on creating a safety plan, check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Path to Safety.
Stay Away from Hotspots
If there is a known pattern to the abuse cycle (time of day, location in the home, triggers, etc.), try to make an effort to avoid pieces of that pattern. For example, if arguments occur mostly in the kitchen, reduce that risk by taking advantage of time when the abusive partner may be distracted. Distractions could be when they are napping, involved in a television program, playing a video game, etc.
Structure and Communication
For parents, having the kids home full-time can be trying even when not in a domestic violence relationship. Working together as a family will help keep stress levels at a minimum. This will benefit all members of the family sharing the confined space.
- Routine: Create a structured environment that involves doing chores and schoolwork before playtime, television, video gaming.
- Communicate: Put down your phone, walk away from your computer or tablet, and spend time with your children. Communicate, answer questions, alleviate their fears, play games with them. These are all ways you can bond with your children during this very scary time.
- Normalcy: Children like to feel needed. Children like structure. Children need normalcy and want to know everything is going to be okay. If you do this from the start, the children will know what is expected of them, and will understand that they are part of the effort to keep the family safe and healthy.
It is crucial that you and your children maintain optimum health mentally and emotionally at this time. Self-care can be anything that helps you feel relaxed, alleviates anxiety, makes you smile, and uplifts your spirits.
Practicing self-care can be as simple as taking a nap or sitting on your porch for some alone time. Other ways can include:
- Taking a break from the news updates.
- Taking a break from technology.
- Getting outside (but maintaining social distance) by gardening or taking a walk.
- Eating mindfully.
- Playing with your pet.
- Hugging your kids, loved ones, or even yourself.
- Making a cup of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa and taking a time out.
- Listening to soothing, meditative music, even as background noise. You can find this type of music on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and more by searching for key phrases like healing music, meditative music, etc.
- Journaling, as this is also a good way to help ground yourself.
- Laughing! Laughter is great medicine. It’s okay to be silly and play with the kids.
Keep in Touch
If you have a support network, keep in touch with them regularly so they know you are safe. Your support network could include parents, siblings, best friends, neighbors, other relatives, or anyone you feel safe and comfortable talking to. Have a regular check in time with at least one person in your network so that if they do not hear from you within a certain time period, they will be alerted that something may be wrong.
We Are Here for You
In addition to all of this, know that help is only a phone call away. YWCA Mohawk Valley will keep our 24-hour hotline and emergency shelters operating throughout the crisis, as long as we are allowed to remain open. Supporting our community through this unprecedented time is our priority.
If you are experiencing a life-threatening domestic violence emergency, always remember to call 911 first.
If you need someone to talk with, need help in getting safe, or any of our domestic violence crisis services, call our hotlines. In Oneida County, call 315.797.7740. In Herkimer County, for our sexual violence and child advocacy services, call 315.866.4120.
We are here for you. We want you and your family to be safe.
It’s going to be okay.