Since quarantine began for my family six weeks ago, on Friday March 13, one group of people has been consistently on my heart and in my head. It’s those for whom home isn’t safe. Whether it be men or women, children, or the elderly… there are many people whose worst nightmare is being brought to life by virtue of having to stay at home. So what happens when Safer at Home… isn’t?
For these people, home is a necessary means to an end. School, work, activities, or visits from others are what gives them a break from the horrors of home. Calls from victims or survivors to domestic abuse crisis lines are up across the country. Reports and referrals for child protective services are down. Children who do not have enough to eat, either because their parents can’t afford it or because they shamefully use food as punishment, are missing those meals they so desperately need.
Lack of regular interaction with other adults that serve as checkpoints for safety, whether be at church, at school, support groups, or even friends and family, makes daily life in quarantine even scarier. Interactions are limited to those with delivery and mail persons, and even most carriers have waived signature requirements as a sanitary precaution.
Many shelters for victims are either operating with limited hours, at limited capacities, or have been forced to close altogether. Project Women has seen a 74% increase in requests for beds at shelters it refers to.
Shelter in place or safer at home orders also have the risk of bringing out dangerous behaviors for abusers. With parties trapped inside, tensions boil over quicker, patience runs thinner (ask any parent trying to parent and work right now), and abusers can be empowered by the lack of visibility to what is going on inside the home. Those that suffer from addictions are likely deprived of any meetings or outside accountability; relapses are more likely and already appearing to be more prominent. Further, normal resources are just not there to deal with the aftermath of a relapse.
It’s an especially scary time for many people that live in houses of horror.
There may not be a lot that you can do as an outsider, but here are some practical suggestions. At the risk of sounding like the New York City subway, I’m going to say “If you see something, say something.” If something seems off with a neighbor, you can always call and ask for a welfare check by local authorities. If you know of a family that relies on free or reduced price lunches to feed their kids, see if you can organize some meals for the family. If you’re connected with a church, they are probably a great resource to help your family or another family during this time. At a minimum, they can direct you to someone that can provide assistance.
Here are some additional resources that can be utilized during this time:
National Domestic Violence Hotline- 1-800-799-SAFE
RESOLVE Crisis Hotline- 1-888-7-YOU-CAN
Locate a Domestic Abuse Shelter- CLICK HERE
Substance Abuse and Mental Health National Helpline- CLICK HERE