Home quarantine is a dangerous time for victims of domestic violence
Working from home and sheltering in place might be frustrating and isolating for the average person, but for victims of domestic violence it’s downright dangerous. With no excuse to leave the house, couples are tethered to each other for days or weeks on end.
“Even when we have short term stay-at-home situations like a really bad weather emergency, we get an increase in calls and concerns from people who are stuck at home with somebody who feels out of control,” said Rachel Krinsky, executive director of Bellevue’s LifeWire, an organization that provides services to survivors of domestic violence. “In those scenarios, survivors express to us that abuse becomes more frequent, more serious, more violent. This is an unprecedented occurrence of so many people having to be home together for so long. So we are very concerned about that.”
People who once had available windows to call for help, when they went to work or out to run errands, no longer have an excuse to leave the house or be alone.
“Our daytime help calls have gone down somewhat, which is to be expected,” said Susan Segall, executive director of the 44-year-old nonprofit New Beginnings, Seattle’s first organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. “More survivors are having to stay home with their children and may not have opportunities to call under those situations. Or may not have safe opportunities to contact us.”
But Krinsky said they are still getting calls.
“We have seen a quick jump already in requests for domestic violence protection orders, either as a way to keep an ex partner away, or sometimes as a way to try to get someone removed form the home,” Krinsky said. “So our legal advocates have been trying to respond to those.”
This is a stressful time for many people who feel worried and unsure about the state of the world. Segall said stress can be a big trigger for abusers.
“We also know that abusers leverage vulnerability,” Segall said. “So survivors forced to stay home, if they can’t earn a paycheck, if they become sick. These are all acute vulnerabilities that will definitely be used against them in an abusive relationship.”
If a survivor has lost their job due to restaurant or business closures, they may not have the money to move out of their shared home, to leave their abuser and live independently. That’s where nonprofits like LifeWire and New Beginnings come in. They offer financial help to pay for housing, relocation, utilities, and have temporary shelter options for survivors of all genders and their children.
But because of coronavirus, both nonprofits were forced to cancel their annual fundraising galas, a major funding source. New Beginnings’ fundraising goal is $300,000.
“We’ve had to postpone our $500,000 gala,” Krinsky said. “We will be doing a virtual event to try and recoup some of that and keep our cash flow moving. We’re going to start that April 6th and really be asking the community for help because we need to stay operating at full capacity throughout the year, and that is a big challenge.”
In Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy proclamation, it specifically states: “This prohibition shall not apply to individuals whose homes or residences are unsafe or become unsafe, such as victims of domestic violence. These individuals are permitted and urged to leave their homes or residences and stay at a safe alternate location.”
“Domestic violence is prevalent,” Krinsky said. “It’s a really important time to reach out to people. If folks know anyone who they are concerned about, who might be isolated; whether or not they know they’re in an abusive relationship, it’s just really important to let people know that people are there for them, without judgement, without solutions. It’s really important to let the people in your life know that you’re a safe person for them to come to and that you care about them.”