Domestic Violence: What You Need to Know

Domestic Violence: What You Need to Know

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Advocates for people experiencing and surviving domestic violence agree that abuse related to physical distancing is on the rise. Calls to domestic violence hotlines have dramatically increased. Domestic violence programs are still open for services remotely through telephone, internet and emergency services. Shelters are still available as well.

Clergy, counselors, trusted friends and emergency responders can all help people who are suffering get the help they need. First, know the warning signs; domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, or financial. For example, a partner may get suddenly angry and consistently blame you for their mistakes. They may control your phone and computer, make threats against you, your children or your pets, or become very aggressive and violent. An abuser might show signs of jealousy about your relationships or time spent with other people.

Sometimes there are physical cues that someone is being abused, like unexplained bruises, or wearing long sleeves even on a hot day. A victim of abuse may be very anxious around their abuser, or they may avoid eye contact. It is also important to know that not all victims of domestic violence show signs of abuse.

With so much time being spent in the home during the pandemic, there is a risk of an escalation of violence. Some risks for increased violence include threats of killing the victim or someone close to them, more frequent physical violence, access to a weapon, and recent separation or divorce. If you or someone you know is experiencing this behavior it is important to get help.

Always call 911 if you feel the danger is immediate. Talk with a certified domestic violence advocate by calling, going on-line or texting your local help line (listed below) they can help identify resources, connect you with legal advice and promote safe options. Make a safety plan, gather what you would need if you had to leave quickly such as important documents, medications, clothing etc.

Domestic violence survivors face many challenges when trying to get out of violent situations. They experience mixed emotions of fear, guilt, love, and responsibility. During this pandemic, isolation, social distancing and fear of exposure to the virus are additional barriers survivors have to overcome. If you are concerned about someone’s safety and suspect domestic violence there are ways you can help.

Keep in touch by phone, social media, email, text and notes to decrease feelings of isolation. Keep communication open and ask how you can help. The victim of domestic violence needs to make their own decisions. Listen to the victim, provide information and resources when it is safe to do so. Offer to call a Help line with the victim or provide a safe place to stay. Encourage a safety plan, include a code word that is known by the victim, perhaps the children and a close friend or two that allows the victim to tell someone to send help without alerting the abuser.

As a community leader share information, resources, hotline numbers and websites on your social media sites. Include issues of mental health and domestic violence in sermons. Display information bulletins in the church building and restrooms.

We all need support sometimes. Let’s be there for each other to promote compassion, kindness, love and safety. If you or someone you know needs support during the COVID-19 outbreak there is help!

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is offering assistance and safety planning 24/7
o 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
o TTY 1-800-787-3224 o If you’re unable to speak safely, you can chat online, or text LOVEIS to 22522

Connecticut:
Safe Connect  
Domestic Violence Risk Factors

Massachusetts:
MA SafeLink MA Statewide Toll-Free Domestic Violence Hotline 1-877-785-2020
List of Domestic Violence Services by Massachusetts County

Rhode Island:
Visit the Helpline www.HelplineRI.com  The Helpline: 1-800-494-8100
RI Safety Planning   
Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence 401-467-9940

Author

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Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen is Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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