Staying Safe During COVID-19: 3 Tips For Victims Of Domestic Violence
Many survivors are forced to stay in close proximity with abusers making them susceptible to more abuse.
By Edith Mecha
Coronavirus Pandemic is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives.
Indeed, tensions remain high in our now limited everyday activities.
Many survivors are forced to stay in close proximity with abusers making them susceptible to more abuse. Abuse being about power and control, many abusers are now using this health crisis to gain more control over the victim and perpetuate their abuse. This new control tactic is supported by a Research from Center for Global Development that observes that times of pandemics and disaster are linked to a myriad risk factors for increased violence against women and children.
These factors can create situations where safety is compromised, and danger escalated.
I have discussed 3 of the most important tips to fall back on if this situation persists. Remember that you are the one who best understands your situation. Only take advice that feels safe and relevant to you. It is important to try and think about the things that may change or make you more unsafe, especially thinking through now how you might get help if you need it. Take note that the virus is still ravaging, and you could be a victim if you let go the guard. The WHO and CDC websites can give you advice on how to respond to the pandemic.
1. Practice Self-Care
COVID-19 is causing many of us stress and uncertainty, but it is even worse if one is experiencing abuse. Taking time for your health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel. Self-care becomes essential in helping one to reduce the chaos and instability that undermines their ability to work or even function well daily.
Take a few moments daily to meditate, do exercises, jog, listen to positive affirmations, engage in activities or hobbies that excite you, watch your favorite TV shows, write a journal, and practice some deep breathing exercises. These can decrease stress, relax your mind, body, help you sleep better and keep you focused. Learn more self-care tips here.
2. Create a Safety Plan
A safety plan is a customized plan that involves ways to stay physically, emotionally, and financially safe and alive while in an abusive relationship, planning to leave, or after leaving.
Each safety plan is characteristic of a survivor’s situation. Practicality is important and the plan must consider your existing support network and available resources. Also, regardless of one’s situation or level of risk, there is a basic rule that is an essential component of every safety plan for all victims and their children: when in danger, get out, get safe and get help.
Here are 11 suggestions of actions that might be helpful to you.
- Tell a trusted friend or family or counselor about the abuse
- What is the usual pattern of abuse? Is it worse when the kids are around or not around?
- Create tactics to avoid or reduce the risk of injury during a physical attack
- Inform your children that abuse is wrong, even when someone they love is being abusive. Explain to them that abuse isn’t your fault, and neither is it theirs. Teach them how to keep safe when there is abuse
- Have a code word/sign to signal that you are in danger – set this up for family and friends to let them know by text/WhatsApp/Google Meet. The code will need to alert them to contact the police if you are in danger
- Plan where to go in an emergency
- A means of connecting with emergency services i.e. a phone
- Have a list of phone numbers to call for help in case of an emergency (police, doctor, women rights organization, safe house)
- Keep safely any evidence of the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Create a plan of how to get out of your home safely and practice with your children
- Quick access to cash, important documents, and basic necessities
Check out a detailed safety plan.
Whether you choose to remain with the abuser or leave the relationship, safety planning is crucial to reduce the potential for harm. But removing yourself completely from an abusive relationship is the best solution.
3. Build a Strong Support Network
Because people are being encouraged to observe social distancing and limit unnecessary movement, you may feel isolated from friends and family. However, try to maintain connections with family and friends through social media and over the phone, and schedule frequent check-ins to keep in touch and feel connected.
Make use of technology like WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Meet and Facebook Live to be able to see the faces of those that you love and care for. Make sure that, if you use technology, you can do so safely.
Abuse is never okay, and neither is it your fault. If you need help, you may reach out to the following organizations.
In a nutshell, it pays to listen to advice and heed WHO guidelines on apt pandemic response. Your success on how to ensure your own safety from the abuser is a personal and confidential duty.
**If you are in an abusive relationship or someone you know is, call the following hotlines: Kenya -1195, UK – 999, 0808 2000 247, South Africa – 0800 428-428 and call-back service by dialing *120*7867#, Germany – 0800 22 55 530 / 0800 011 6016, and USA – 1−800−799−7233.