How A Year of COVID-19 Impacted Domestic Violence Survivors
At the onset of COVID-19 becoming a national health concern in March of 2020, we immediately knew that quarantining at home with one’s abusive partner would be dangerous for survivors. We know that any external factors that add stress, isolation and financial strain can negatively impact survivors and create circumstances where their safety is further compromised.
In June 2020, we released a snapshot into what survivors were experiencing during COVID-19. Since then, this pandemic has brought change and tragedy to many of our lives. We know that survivors are incredibly strong and resilient, but COVID-19 made our mission of shifting power back to those affected by relationship abuse even more important.
On March 16,2020, we began collecting data to track the impact COVID-19 had on those affected by relationship abuse. During the first year of the pandemic, here’s what we found:
- While it fluctuated, as did the waves of the pandemic, our contact volume did increase by 5.94% compared to the same period year-over-year.
We knew that survivors would likely feel less safe reaching out for support because of being in such close proximity to their abusive partner. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, our contact volume actually decreased by 6% compared to March 2019. A decrease in our contact volume is rare, but this didn’t surprise us – this pandemic put up unique barriers for survivors to access support safely.
As time went on, we did see our contact volume increase. From March 2020 through March 2021, we experienced a 5.94% increase in contact volume year-over-year.
- Survivors told our advocates about their concerns for their mental health, finances, and children.
In the case of any natural disaster, many of us faced external factors that added stress, isolation, and financial strain. All of these factors also further compromise a survivor’s safety. According to the CDC, adults across the U.S. reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. The impact of adverse mental health conditions paired with experiencing domestic violence made for an extremely challenging time for survivors.
Since 2016, we’ve seen reports of experiences with financial abuse grow by an average of 13% annually– it’s one of the least known forms of abuse, but nearly every survivor experiences financial abuse in some way. During COVID-19, this could look like abusive partners monitoring a survivor’s purchases, restricting or disrupting their access to remote work, or taking away their stimulus checks.
Having both survivors and their children in closer and more frequent proximity to an abusive partner due to at-home working and schooling added yet another factor that could further compromise a survivor’s safety – and that of their family. It wasn’t (and still might not be) possible or safe for many survivors to reach out for support. However, we know that survivors are extremely resourceful and resilient. Part of the safety planning we do here at The Hotline involves brainstorming ways to create space away from an abusive partner, including taking longer showers or walks alone if possible, and emotional safety planning with children.
- Survivors worried about their housing and whether they could find a domestic violence shelter.
According to NNEDV, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for survivors and their children. We know from our conversations with survivors that the lack of safe and affordable housing is often a huge barrier when a survivor is considering leaving their relationship. Even with pauses on evictions, housing instability added a great amount of stress to the survivor experience during COVID-19.
We also saw an increase in survivors requesting access to a domestic violence shelter. With social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols in place across the country, we heard from shelters and other resources that they were stretched thin. While every shelter has been working hard to keep their residents safe and do what’s best for their community, there were some survivors who were unable to gain access to emergency shelter.
Here’s what we know to be true: survivors are incredibly brave and resourceful. We find ourselves inspired by their strength and bravery every day.
For any survivors who need support, we are here for you, 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text START to 88788.
Don’t know a survivor, but still want to help? Help us spread the message that hope is available by sharing our report on social media (make sure to tag our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram when sharing!).
- National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health
- Promising Futures: Best Practices for Serving Children, Youth, and Parents Experiencing Domestic Violence
- Safe Housing Capacity Building Center
- The FVPSA Program, in collaboration with HUD and the Department of Justice (Office on Violence Against Women and Office for Victims of Crime), provides training and technical assistance to enhance the capacity of domestic violence programs to meet the housing needs of survivors and their children through the National Capacity Building Center on Safe and Supportive Housing, a member of the Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium.