Living with an abuser is a terrible thing to endure. There are many reasons a victim may have difficulty leaving the situation. Perhaps the victim is a child and has nowhere else to go. The victim may be a spouse or partner who is financially dependent on the abuser. Psychological control can also play a significant role in making abuse victims feel that they have no other option.

During times of crisis, interpersonal violence spikes. People who are already in an abusive situation may face more extreme violence. During the pandemic, this problem has been exacerbated, because lockdowns, social distancing mandates and fear of contracting/spreading the virus have limited victims’ ability to find refuge outside of the home.

Many domestic abusers are using the pandemic as a way of exerting added control over their victims – and isolating them from friends and family. Some abuse victims have reported facing threats from their abusers if they should become sick – such as throwing them on the street or withholding financial or medical assistance.

During the public health crisis, victims may not be able to leave the house or go to work as they normally would – further limiting their ability to find a sanctuary away from the abuser. Over-crowded medical facilities limit victims’ access to medical care or therapy during this time. In addition, victims who might normally turn to their parents’ or other loved ones’ home for safety may be more reluctant now – for fear of inadvertently spreading the virus to vulnerable family members.

Getting help

Domestic violence advocates advise that if you’re currently in an abusive situation and you’re not currently in quarantine, you should seek help immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has added extra features during the pandemic – to make it easier to report abuse without alerting the abuser who may be in the house with you. In addition to calling, the hotline now offers online chat and texting options.

In addition, if you are ready to press charges against your abuser and hold them accountable for their actions, your lawyer can help you create a safety plan that addresses immediate and longer-term safety needs. No one should live in fear. You deserve access to safety and support.