As states across the country rush to curb the surge in coronavirus cases, once again the safest place for anyone to be is home. But for victims of domestic violence, home is far from a safe haven.
The coronavirus has led to a surge in domestic violence, leaving victims and their children struggling to find access to food, safe housing, and transportation, according to a new study by Rutgers University.
“The national rhetoric often when we hear about issues of domestic violence is this question of why don’t victims leave,” Rutgers University lead investigator Amanda M. Stylianou told CNN. “The pandemic has led to an incredibly challenging time for all of us but we need to remind ourselves what this means for people experiencing abuse at home. It’s not just an inconvenience, it’s a terrifying reality.”
Stylianou and a team of researchers spoke with 83 victims of domestic violence over a nine-month period, beginning with the moment they left their abusive relationships and entered into a domestic violence shelter. They then tracked their progress over time to see what happens once a victim leaves.
The study showed that some victims were met with various challenges and barriers — including a lack of food, shelter, transportation, childcare, and opportunities for employment — that pressured them to live in communities near their abusive partners.
Others were forced to move back in with their abusers after finding themselves having to choose between being abused or being homeless.
“Survivors have always faced numerous barriers in building independence after leaving an abusive relationship, but the pandemic has really exasperated those factors for survivors,” Stylianou said.
“The ways in which social isolation has limited survivors’ access to family members, community members, childcare systems have closed, education isn’t fully available in person, there’s a lack of jobs available — it’s always been an issue, but the financial and educational impact of Covid-19 has made it much worse.”
Victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a service that connects victims of domestic violence with local resources 24 hours a day.
“Communities should also think about how they can support survivors and use resources to help them find employment, housing, and transportation,” Stylianou said.
“Reach out to family, friends, community members and ask how they’re doing and if they’re feeling safe. A connection to their community is a major protective factor for victims of domestic abuse.”
Resources for victims of domestic violence
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.
Office on Women’s Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662
A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.