Part of the culture of A Girl & A Gun is empowering women with the ability to take control of their personal safety. The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for resources in our community for those who may face violence during the shelter-in-place mandates.
I was scrolling through a community group this morning and stopped at the post, “I’ve been hearing more than normal family disturbances calls on the scanner in the last few days. Wondering why?”
Others replied that they noticed, too, in addition to an increase of sirens outside. While some dismissed it as the fact that they’re home in quarantine, rather than out running errands or at work, others agreed. “There are definitely more domestic disturbances calls. Last night a man was fighting with his brother-in-law, who was hitting him with a paper towel holder. I thought maybe he was upset that the other man used the last paper towel.”
Research shows that violence against women increases during times of stress or anxiety, and experts say the next few months are likely to be particularly acute due to financial insecurity, alcohol consumption and health concerns.
“Because of this situation — the quarantining and social distancing and isolation that is occurring because of the COVID-19 — it can certainly allow abusers to have more tactics they can use to maintain their control,” said Ruth Glenn, the president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
Following reports of domestic abuse as much as tripling in China during recent periods of isolation, advocacy groups have been urging state and federal governments to act swiftly to better protect vulnerable women.
Those experiencing violence may avoid leaving or seeking help because of the coronavirus. “The added pressure of virus will make survivors wonder, ‘Can I leave the house?’, ‘Should the kids come too?’, ‘Should I stay for now because of the virus out there?’ ” said Jessica Skultety of Safe+Sound community outreach associates.
Skultety also noted that those being abused may find it more difficult to reach out for help because their abuser is home and monitoring their communication.
“One day COVID-19 won’t be here, but while it is right now, what are the things we can plan for? I tell people about the National Association of Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, all the time,” said Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, an expert with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and a social work professor at Howard University.
Advocates are now urging victims to ensure they have access to alternative online supports. Skultety said, “They can access [help] online just in case they don’t want to risk calling. “And what’s good about that resource is if they have to get off immediately, there is an escape button they can hit that will take them immediately off the page and remove it from the cookies.”
NCADV has counselors that can help those in need develop a safety plan, Glenn said. A “safety plan” covers how to respond to future abusive or violent incidents, how to prepare for the possibility of an incident happening, and how to get to safety with trusted family, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Safe Horizon also offers a Safety Plan Checklist as well.