There has been something on my mind the past month and I have started countless posts and blogs to address it, but it seems I just can’t find the words. I’m going to try…bear with me.
During this time of quarantine, self-isolation, or whatever you want to call it, the range of emotions runs from love to hate. Some people are loving the slower pace, spending time at home with family…reconnecting. Others feel like they are in a prison. The freedom they had taken for granted to jump in the car, drive to the mall or a restaurant, go to church or even the dentist has been taken away and they can’t stand spending so much time with their family.
But what has been so heavy on my mind are the victims who are living with abusers and now have no relief. For some victims, going to work every day was the safest place they could be. During that part of the day they could breathe and relax a little. Or, if they stay at home and their partner works, during those hours at home, they could regroup and gather strength for the turmoil that happens when the abuser comes home. Having time apart from an abuser can be time to call a friend, get encouragement, read something inspirational or work on an escape plan. Spending so much time with an abuser can stress a victim to the breaking point. And if there are children in danger, it makes it even worse.
For those of you who are having such trouble spending so much time with those you love, imagine spending it with an abuser you are terrified of.
The added stress of questions about finances, the uncertain future, and not knowing how long this will continue can make a volatile situation explode.
What does a victim do? Where does she go? Who will help her? How can she stay safe and keep her children safe?
This is what I have been struggling with. What do I tell victims? There’s the Domestic Violence Hotline she can call, and local shelters, (which are probably closed, but still answering their phones) or that family or friend that she trusts, but how can she call when the abuser is right there? If an abuser is with her 24/7, the tension will build, the stress will be unbearable, and the cycle of abuse will be accelerated. “Sheltering in place” isn’t that safe of a thing when you are sheltering with an abuser.
And my fears are backed up with the fact that I keep seeing statistics that domestic violence has increased. All over the world, lockdowns are resulting in an “horrifying surge” in domestic violence cases.
To any victim reading this who feels every day adds to the tension and that soon things are going to get dangerous, I’m going to say, leave. Don’t wait until someone gets hurt. Even if you have to arrange for a police escort to help you get out safely. Stay with a family member, a friend or in a hotel room. The chance of catching the virus is very slim compared to a violent confrontation with your abuser, which gets more probable every day. You’ll have time to figure things out later. If you can’t stay with a friend or family member or don’t have money for a hotel, ask someone or your church or any other organization to loan you the money. The most important thing is to get away from your abuser, even if for a little while.
And then, I ask this of you, my friends. If you suspect that a friend or family member is being abused, please check on them. Call them and word the conversation so that they need only answer yes or no. Ask if they are ok, if they need help, if the kids are ok. Ask them as many questions as you can to get the information you need. Tell them you will help them in any way you can. Work out a code word that if it gets too bad, they can call you and say that code word so that you can call the police.
I keep hearing the saying that we are all in this together. That may be true for some, but I can guarantee that at this very moment there are thousands of abuse victims who feel very much alone, and some are surrounded by the people they love…and one they are terrified of.
If anyone who reads this needs to talk about your abusive situation, or that of a friend or family member, please don’t hesitate to call me. I’m always available. Be safe…even if that means putting distance between you and your abuser much sooner than you expected.
My phone: 814-418-0380