Domestic abuse is an issue that has impacted both women and men long before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the outbreak forced stay-at-home orders, advocates worried that survivors would struggle to seek help because they're stuck with their abusers at home.
In December, Killeen nonprofit Families in Crisis told 25 News they’ve seen an alarming spike in domestic violence cases. Their crisis line, outreach services and emergency shelter, had all hit record highs over the past few months.
During a period when everyone is struggling with the stress of the pandemic, it’s important to know more about intimate partner violence, its red flags, how you can support survivors and find resources.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline said this includes behaviors that physically harm, intimidate, manipulate or control a partner, or otherwise force them to behave in ways they don’t want to, including through physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, or financial control.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of intimate partner violence-related impact.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith or class.
Victims of domestic abuse can also include a child or other relative, or any other household member.
What are the warning signs?
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, common signs of abusive behavior in a partner include:
- Telling you that you never do anything right.
- Showing extreme jealousy of your friends or time spent away from them.
- Preventing or discouraging you from spending time with friends, family members, or peers.
- Insulting, demeaning, or shaming you, especially in front of other people.
- Preventing you from making your own decisions, including about working or attending school.
- Controlling finances in the household without discussion, including taking your money or refusing to provide money for necessary expenses.
- Pressuring you to have sex or perform sexual acts you’re not comfortable with.
- Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol.
- Intimidating you through threatening looks or actions.
- Insulting your parenting or threatening to harm or take away your children or pets.
- Intimidating you with weapons like guns, knives, bats, or mace.
- Destroying your belongings or your home.
Advocates say it's important to document the signs of abuse when you’re away from your abuser and safe, which will help provide proof of your partner’s behavior if you ever need it, for legal reasons or otherwise.
Ways to support someone in a domestic abusive situation:
Watching someone in an abusive situation can be difficult under any circumstances. While your first instinct may be to “save them” from the relationship, advocates warn that abuse is never that simple.
Loved ones can provide support by helping someone in an abusive situation create a safety plan and offering to go with them to any service provider or legal setting for moral support. You can also encourage them to seek support through a confidential hotline to connect with a professional in the field.
A domestic abuse survivor may also be financially dependent on an abusive partner.
One of the most immediate ways you can support someone experiencing relationship abuse is by helping them with their material needs. This includes helping them identify a support network to assist with physical needs like housing, food and healthcare.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides several resources on how loved ones can offer support.
How you can find help:
Your safety is the most important concern. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
When searching for resources, the National Domestic Violence Hotline advises to be sure that the computer you are using is in a safe location and is not being monitored by your partner. Click here to learn more about how an abusive partner can monitor your computer.
If you are not in immediate danger, consider these options: