DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE PANDEMIC
• October 2020 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Domestic Violence and the Pandemic
Domestic violence was an epidemic before COVID-19, and the health crisis increased incidents of abuse in Los Angeles County – and around the world. “Safer at home” is not always true for victims of abuse. In 2020, stay-at-home orders, school closures, job loss, and escalating family stress have combined to create explosive emotional unrest. Domestic violence calls to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department are up more than 8% and DV hotline calls in California doubled over 2019. It’s important to note that in some U.S. cities, DV calls have dropped as victims have fewer opportunities to make unobserved calls for help.
Both adults and children are at risk. Educators account for about 20% of calls to child protective services nationwide, but teachers, guidance counselors and daycare providers are no longer in a position to witness and report suspected abuse.
As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, we remember that DV is a pattern of power and control where one person takes personal stress, anxiety, and insecurities out on the people they live with — often the people they say they love.
As lockdown restrictions are lifted, the abuse will not end. This remains a critical time for survivors, and greater awareness, education, and bystander intervention are needed. This October, join L.A. CADA in activating bystanders and sharing information that can help those who are experiencing violence during this unprecedented time. Know that:
- Abusers often weaponize isolation
- Only 50% of victims of domestic crimes call the police after an assault by a family member during normal times
- In lockdown situations, victims don’t have the freedom to call a hotline without being overheard by their assailant
- Survivors conduct a cost-benefit analysis in their minds. Sometimes tolerating abuse is safer when the alternative is moving into a shelter where victims and their children may be exposed to the coronavirus, or when the victim has no means of self-support
- Women stay because they’re afraid to leave, and they leave when they’re afraid to stay
- A. CADA provides help for victims: call (562) 906-2676 (Santa Fe Springs) or (213) 626-6411 (Downtown Los Angeles).
Find out: Practical Ways to Help Victims of Abuse
“My uncle killed my aunt — I swore I would never take anything like that from any man. But the signs are not always so obvious at first. Yeah, my boyfriend was the jealous type, but it was flattering, you know? I felt protected. When we moved in together, everything changed. Then, he started blaming me when men looked at me — like I wore tops that were too sexy. He never complained before, but now that we were living together, I was his ‘property’. He had always yelled at me when we were drinking, but now he was hitting, kicking, slapping too. But because he was always 100% sorry afterward, I thought we would be ok. But one night, I went out to my friend’s bachelorette party. Well he found me, and dragged me out of the club. He beat me so bad that night that I slept for two days — a concussion or something. Three months after, he did it again when I found out I was pregnant. Said it wasn’t his. That was my turning point. I went into counseling and left him. It was hard to do, but now I know it saved our lives.”
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
Safety Planning for Domestic Violence Victims
Development of a safety plan is essential for victims of abuse. A safety plan is a practical way to improve personal safety. It prepares survivors to leave an abusive situation and details what to do afterward. The plan includes vital information tailored to each person’s unique situation and ways to respond to different scenarios, including telling your friends and family about the situation, coping with emotions, and various resources suited individual circumstances.
It can be hard to think clearly or make logical decisions during moments of crisis. Having a safety plan laid out in advance helps abuse victims to protect themselves and others in high-stress situations. Some elements of a safety plan are:
- give a “code word” to family, co-workers, and friends so they know when to call for help for you
- the lowest risk place to go when you feel a fight coming on
- a place to hide important papers (ID, birth certificates, immunization records, etc.)
- a place for purse and keys so they are quickly accessible
- a list of phone numbers (family, friends, DV shelters, and hotlines)
- teach children to call 911 during abuse
- have money/clothes hidden for your escape
- rehearse an escape plan
- file a protection order and keep it near your person
Learn about: Safety Planning