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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE : HOW TO IDENTIFY ABUSE AND RECOVER DURING AND AFTER THE LOCKDOWN

According to the United Nations Population Fund, 6 months of coronavirus lockdown could mean 31 million more cases of domestic violence. This is a topic that is very close to my heart. It is more important than ever to remove the stigma of people needing help and preventing future tragedies.

While the lockdown itself was not the cause of domestic abuse, it can aggravate pre-existing behaviors in abusive partners. The current atmosphere of fear, economic insecurity, and unemployment creates feelings of inadequacy, which could lead to abuse. Interpersonal dynamics are exacerbated due to the pressures of job loss stress over health or just the pressures of being sheltered in place.

HOW TO IDENTIFY FINANCIAL ABUSE

Domestic violence is an abuse in a domestic setting that can take on many forms. It is not just physical, but it could be financial and emotional. It does not matter your race, age, religion or gender domestic abuse can occur anywhere. Financial and emotional abuse is not always easy to see or understand. Abuse may take the form of actions, threats or even statements.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, research has shown 99 percent of domestic violence victims also suffer financial abuse. The silent form of abuse is not easily recognized. Financial abuse is a situation where an abuser gains control of their victim’s finances, in an effort to curtail their victim’s independence. Abusers will set up bank accounts only they control, take out a credit card in the victims name without the victim’s consent or will not permit the victim to be titled to a property. They will take their victim’s critical documents including passports, state ID cards, and social security cards. Some abusers may also destroy a victim’s credit. Many victims are put on allowances and are not allowed to hold a job or bank account. These scenarios leave the victim more vulnerable to physical abuse as well.

As the lockdowns are lifting, people fleeing their abuser are met with new challenges:  lack of funds possibly caused by financial abuse.  Victims are facing even barriers do to high unemployment. Many victims fear not being able to afford to leave. 

HOW TO IDENTIFY EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Emotional abuse  is about control of a victim. It often accompanies financial abuse and can be a precursor to physical abuse. Unfortunately emotional abuse is often minimized, but is just as detrimental to a victim’s self-worth as other forms of abuse. The abuser causes the victim to be blamed and humiliated. An abuser manipulates a situation so that even the victim may not realize it is occurring. Rather than physical action, the weapon of choice for the abuser is emotions. The victim may be persistently criticized about her talking, walking, interactions with others and even her physical appearance, all as a way for the abuser to maintain control. Punishment and threat are also often used.

HELP FOR RECOVERY 

Under normal circumstances, victims reach out to domestic violence centers, families, or co-workers when their abuser is not home. Due to the stay-at-home order, they may not have a chance to place a call because the abuser is ever present. Also, the pandemic unemployment numbers only further discourage victims from leaving their abusers.

Over the last couple months, domestic violence organizations, which provide victims with everything from shelter to legal support and mental health counseling have completely overhauled their operations due to COVID -19. There is likely going to be an overwhelming need for these organizations once the lockdown lifts. However, many of these organization lost funding before the pandemic.

When the victim is ready she should confide in a professional or a close friend for help to move toward a future in which she can step away from the situation and into her new chapter.  Look into available resources such as financial experts through the non-profit National Foundation for Credit Counseling, where she can learn how to deal with debt or credit issues. Also a victim could protect their credit by freezing or opening a line of credit if it is available. It is also important for a victim to know her “numbers.” Victims should make copies of bank and mortgage statements, passports, licenses and other important documents especially if the victim leaves the abuser.  

The reality is many victims of abuse stay in relationships and feel helpless. Victims fear a stigma or retribution from the abuser. We need to support these victims and make abuse no longer an offensive topic to be shameful for the victim to discuss. We need to be comfortable with an open dialogue and help break free from abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse please call the  National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or Text LOVEIS to 22522.

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