The ongoing coronavirus pandemic can add another disturbing statistic: domestic violence incidents have increased in North Carolina. Isolation and lockdowns likely have exacerbated conditions that may have been already present in a rocky relationship. Financial woes and job loss have only increased the stress. For some, these circumstances amounted to the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
On the other side, some groups have noticed that calls to domestic violence help organizations have decreased since covid-19 necessitated isolation. This is likely because abusers commonly strive to prevent survivors from leaving by isolation. Social distancing means that abusers are now spending more time than ever with their victims, leaving less opportunities for these spouses to seek help. While it is important to follow CDC and DHHS guidelines for social distancing, you have to look after yourself.
Abusive spouses have turned the pandemic into a tool, and the things to look out for include: fearmongering; withholding of supplies such as masks or hand sanitizer; spreading misinformation about the disease; using guilt in a form related to the virus (“you’ll get the children sick,” “we can’t afford the medical bills for treatment,” etc.); or preventing you from seeking outside help and justifying that with fear tactics. The social distancing also prevents victims from seeking help by preventing detection by third parties. Hospital staff are busy with in influx of patients, and victims may be too fearful to go to medical offices to seek help. For your children, virtual learning may be further suppressing domestic violence numbers; school teachers and staff have a harder time evaluating evidence of abuse and domestic violence in the virtual setting. Finally, alcohol abuse, often linked to domestic violence, will likely be more present in the home now that bars and restaurants are closed or have more limited capacity and hours.
Yours and your children’s safety is paramount in this time. The first step is to get to a safe space. There are shelters in Greensboro, such as Family Service of the Piedmont. You can chat or call confidentially with an advocate, or browse the National Domestic Violence Hotline at https://www.thehotline.org/. Maintaining contact with trustworthy friends and family not only help you stay connected, but they can be outlets to seek help. Once you can safely do so, there are legal steps you can take. Although courts have been closed or maintain truncated hours, they are open for domestic violence related cases. A civil 50B domestic violence complaint is often the first step to securing longer lasting safety for yourself or your children.