September 2020 Health Committee Article
COVID-19 and Domestic Violence, How it Affects Your Health
During the quarantine, domestic violence has been on the raise. Around the globe, governments have implored residents to stay home to protect themselves and others from the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19. But for domestic violence victims—the vast majority of whom are women, children, and LGBTQ+ individuals—home is a dangerous place.
Today, rising numbers of sick people, growing unemployment, increased anxiety and financial stress, and a scarcity of community resources have set the stage for an exacerbated domestic violence crisis. Many victims find themselves isolated in violent homes, without access to resources or friend and family networks. Abusers could experience heightened financial pressures and stress, increase their consumption of alcohol or drugs, and purchase or hoard guns as an emergency measure. Experts have characterized an “invisible pandemic” of domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis as a “ticking time bomb” or a “perfect storm.”
• Not being able to reach staff on the phone
• Not receiving progress updates from loved ones medical team
• Hearing belittling or threatening behavior from caregiver (while on the phone with your loved one)
• Hearing changes in your loved ones attitude (sounds depressed, or scared during calls, sounding more guarded in conversation)
• Your loved one having a change in speech pattern (being able to speak one day to not being able to speak at all)
What Can you do?
If you know someone who may be experiencing abuse or who is very isolated, check in with her frequently, ask how she is doing, and provide her an opportunity to let you know things may not be going well. If you are in a position to take her in, be sure she is aware that is a possibility for her if needed.
If you are experiencing violence within the home, please remember:
• You are not alone; intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs to one in three women!
• This is not your fault, and you should not feel ashamed to seek help.
• If you are injured, do not delay getting critical care because of contamination fears. Reports show that some emergency rooms are less busy than usual, and all medical staff are extensively trained and prepared to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
• If you know you are at risk, reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. They are available 24/7 and can work with you to find help in your area.
• Have a safety plan. Even obvious things may not seem obvious when you are in a terrifying situation. Having a safety plan will help with that.
How Domestic Violence Affects Your Health
Violence against women, including sexual or physical violence, is linked to many long-term health problems. These can include:
• Chronic pain
• Digestive problems such as stomach ulcers
• Heart problems
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Nightmares and problems sleeping
• Migraine headaches
• Sexual problems such as pain during sex
• Problems with the immune system
Many women also have mental health problems after violence. To cope with the effects of the violence, some women start misusing alcohol or drugs or engage in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex. Sexual violence can also affect someone’s perception of their own bodies, leading to unhealthy eating patterns or eating disorders. If you are experiencing these problems, know that you are not alone. There are resources that can help you cope with these challenges. After you get help for physical injuries, a mental health professional can help you cope with emotional concerns. A counselor or therapist can work with you to deal with your emotions in healthy ways, build your self-esteem, and help you develop coping skills. You can ask your doctor for the name of a therapist, or you can search an online list of mental health services. Learn more about getting help for your mental health.
Victims of sexual assault can also talk for free with someone who is trained to help through the National Sexual Assault Hotline over the phone at 800-656-HOPE (4673).
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