As a survivor of childhood abuse, my respite was school. My home life was tumultuous and unpredictable except for the certainty that there would be violence and abuse. I always knew that there would be screaming, yelling and beatings, I just did not know when they would happen or how severe they would be.
When school was in session, I was safe from the chaos and those were the times I loved the most. I knew that I would be out of the house from 7am to about 4pm. I was safe at school.
This Coronavirus pandemic is forcing closures of schools and workplaces. As I began to do my work in the gender violence space, I realized that victims have the same fears about being at home with a raging abuser. When the abuser is at home, violence occurs. When the abuser is at work, the victim gets a respite, either because they (victims) go to work themselves or because they(victims) are at home alone.
When we add the ongoing pandemic of violence to women, it is easy to see that there will be more pain for women who are being forced to spend time at home.
Why does this happen? It’s because many woman are not safe at home. Domestic Violence (DV) and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a pandemic. According to UNWOMEN.ORG “1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence – mostly by an intimate partner.” Also “almost, 3 in 5 women, worldwide, were killed by their partners or family in 2017.” It is easy to see that under these circumstances, home can be the most dangerous place for a woman.
The COVID-19, known as Coronavirus, is spreading and local authorities are taking precautions like closing schools and asking employees to work from home. This morning, I woke up to a “surge” in cases in New York, Virginia and other states. If you know someone who is being abused at home, please be extra vigilant and check on them.
For the women who are being abused, home is not safe and the added stressors of the interruption of regular schedules exacerbates chaos in home where life is already out of control. When Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, clicks those glistening ruby slippers and says “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” she meant that home was safe.
During times of quarantine and curfew, victims have no escape from the hellish reality of home. In “normal” times, a victim may be able to run to the safety of a shelter if she can find one that has the available space.
In the current climate, victims understand that they are in greater danger. The thing that will be constantly on their mind is “what more can I bear?”
Here are some ways to manage the added stress of an already chaotic home. Before you go to that list know that 911 is the number to call if you need immediate help.
1. As much as possible, get enough sleep and exercise. Both sleep and exercise with allow optimal functioning of your brain. About exercise, Karen Postal, PhD., ABPP-CN, says “we think better because our capacity to make connections is literally improved.” Thrive Global founder Arianna Huffington has written a whole book about sleep, The Sleep Revolution, and she says “It’s very hard to be resilient when we are run down.”
2. Tell a trusted source about the additional fears you have. If you don’t have a person you can trust call 1800-799-7233. If you are a victim, an advocate will be available. If you are having violent thoughts, an advocate will be available.
The underlying truth here is to REACH out and TALK to someone who can help. Your brain may be going crazy trying to come up with solutions for everything. Give yourself a break and ask for help.
3. Have a plan for children who may be stuck at home. Do some research on line about what to do with “cooped up” kids. Check out the article 33 Kids Activities for beating Cabin Fever for fantastic ways to keep your kids occupied while they are home.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Notice when “self-talk” is not helping you to be your best self. Pretend it’s a fly in your shoulder and sway it away. Sometimes we say the most awful things to ourselves and would never utter those words to a friend.
You will survive. You are enough.