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COVID-19 has overtaken the country and has affected the quality of life for many people. For some, the closures and regulations are a mere inconvenience, but for others, the results have been far more stressful, and even dangerous. 

Domestic violence is nothing new but recent studies have shown that numbers have been on the rise. On average, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of violence by an intimate partner. 

With more people being trapped in close quarters, COVID-15 has created an unsafe environment for those trapped with abusive partners. The key to preventing domestic violence is recognizing the signs early and getting help as soon as possible. 

Domestic Violence on the Rise During COVID-19

Within the first few weeks of widespread shutdowns, police stations and domestic violence hotlines were overrun with calls. 

In an April Economist article, data from five large American cities showed that most types of crime had fallen but domestic violence reports increased by 5%. That same month, the United Nations took notice of the alarming spikes and called for urgent action. 

Experts suspect that victims may be less able to report abuse due to being in such close proximity to their abusers. This makes it even more important for victims – and the caring friends and family who are close to them – to know the signs of DV and get in touch with resources early. 

Knowing the Signs of Domestic Violence

"Love shouldn't hurt" painted on back

Knowing the signs of DV in your own relationship and in others is one way to seek help early and prevent future abuse. While it is never the victim’s fault that they are being subjected to emotional or physical violence, it often does take initiative to find resources to escape the situation. 

When you know what to look for, it makes it easier to intervene or, ideally, escape the situation. 

Signs of Emotional Abuse 

Mental and emotional abuse are sometimes hard to identify, especially when you are the victim. 

Here are some common signs of emotional abuse, but know that there are many different methods abusers may employ to manipulate their victims:

  • Name Calling
  • Lying
  • Gaslighting
  • Shaming
  • Blaming the victim for the abuser’s behavior
  • Controlling the victim’s actions – where they can go and who they can talk to
  • Making all the decisions in the relationship
  • Monitoring the victim’s whereabouts
  • Using the victim’s fears to manipulate them
  • Withholding affection
  • Using the victim’s children against them
  • Being in control of all the money and how it’s used
  • Making the victim feel “crazy”
  • Trivializing the victim’s interests or problems

Signs of Physical Abuse

You may assume physical abuse is easy to see, but not always. Physical abuse doesn’t always leave scars and bruises. If a partner puts their hands on you as an act of violence, even if you aren’t seriously injured, this may be considered abuse. 

The most common forms of physical abuse are punching, kicking, slapping, pushing, or physical restraints. The abuser may also throw things, keep you locked inside, or otherwise use physical force to hurt or control the victim.

If you are looking for signs in someone else, consider their clothing and how they act. Someone who is a victim of physical abuse may wear clothes long enough to cover bruises or other injuries. They may also cancel plans or be unable to do physical activity due to injury or fear of being seen. 

Signs of Verbal Abuse  

Verbal abuse is often written off because it can happen during an argument, often to be disregarded if there is an apology after. It is important to remember that verbal abuse is non-constructive and not normal. 

Examples of verbal abuse include humiliation, yelling and screaming, condescension, manipulation, blame, and anything else that is demeaning and makes you feel bad about yourself or life.

Note: This is Not an Exhaustive List 

There are other recognized forms of abuse including sexual abuse, financial abuse, and cultural abuse. If you are feeling uncomfortable or scared of your partner and feel you are experiencing abuse, know the signs and reach out for help when it is safe to do so.

What to Do if You’re Experiencing Domestic Violence

If you think you are experiencing domestic violence, trust yourself. You know yourself and can start to feel empowered to take steps to get yourself out of a dangerous situation. Of course, it may be safest to ask a friend or family member for help if you’re unable to reach out to the authorities on your own. 

Step One: Trust Your Instincts

It’s common for victims to explain away abuse and violence for a number of reasons. It’s important that you practice trusting yourself and begin recognizing the danger you and your family may be in. It is common to underestimate the seriousness of a situation and feel overwhelmed by the process of getting away, but it can be done. 

Step Two: Get Support

Reach out to someone you trust. Be sure you are open and honest with at least one trusted friend or family member so they know of the situation and can offer you a place to stay if need be. 

Step Three: Contact Emergency Services and Professionals 

Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Abuse Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 800-799-7233. 

Police: To file a report, you can call 911 or go to the police department nearest you.

Hospital: If you have been hurt or sexually abused, you can seek help at a hospital for care, counseling, and other resources.

Attorney: Contacting an attorney in these times will give you an experienced professional behind you who can help you navigate the process and connect you to any additional resources you may need. 

Help to Combat Domestic Violence During COVID-19 and Beyond

While the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly impacted people across the world, it has created an even more dangerous situation for others. 

Being stuck at home with an abusive partner or family member is dangerous, and victims need to know that there are resources available. The best thing to do is learn and recognize the signs of abuse early, and reach out for help when it is safe to do so.