Coronavirus isolation: Fertile grounds for domestic violence

Since Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement of a state of emergency, officials have enforced strict social distancing measures that are keeping people socially isolated. But what if it puts victims of sexual and domestic violence at risk?

“Abusers sometimes use isolation as a tactic to maintain control over the person that they’re abusing,” said Toni Troop, director of communications and development at Jane Joe Inc.  “This pandemic has caused life changing problems that could trigger violence in the home especially with the layoffs and financial strain it’s putting on families.”

According to a report from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the U.S have been victims of violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, which is defined as stalking, rape, or physical violence.

Troop says local organizations are hard at work providing assistance considering the reduction of physical contact. Many are working remotely and are making use digital tools to communicate effectively. “Our jobs come with a lot of secondary trauma witnessing their bravery as they navigate through these horrific situations. “We have to be flexible in how to provide adequate services.”

Local advocates state-wide are discussing policies that help marginalized communities affected by sexual and domestic violence. “We need to pass the Safe Communities Act in Massachusetts to protect the undocumented who are afraid to call the police in case of such emergencies,” Troop said. “We need to take a holistic approach to this issue and support policies that will protect those in vulnerable communities like LGBTQ, African-Americans, and those with physical disabilities, well after the Coronavirus ends.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline provided tips to keep survivors safe during lockdown

1. Create a safety plan or guidelines to reduce your risk of being hurt.

2. Practice self-care and prioritize health and wellness activities at home

3. Reach out for help by maintaining social connection online or by phone.

“We need to recognize that for survivors, the feeling of being isolated can be an ongoing lifelong impact. They need to know that no matter what we will always be there,” said Sharon Imperto, clinical innovation projects and training director for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.

The center is one of many who provides remote services to survivors. “People in situations of sexual and domestic violence are resilient. They are good at navigating safety and understand what is best for them in each situation. Our job is to remind them that there will always be options available.”

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