During this please-stay-away-from-other-people time, I have been thinking a lot about people who are trapped at home with an abuser.
Yesterday morning we went to the grocery store for our next two-week round of supplies. No, we didn’t buy toilet paper. We had just happened to stock up before COVID-19, and we are still well-supplied.
We were in the snacks aisle, when I realized that I had passed the sour cream and onion potato chips. I turned around to retrieve them, when a large man substantially farther away than the recommended six feet said, “So you’re coming this way then?!” I replied, pointing behind me, “Oh, you want to go this way?” “Not anymore!!” With that, he and the woman who was with him turned around and went down another aisle.
Later, as I exited the frozen food aisle, he and she were about to pass that aisle. He spotted me, came up short, glared at me, huffed, and made a wide swing around me. Clearly, the grocery store was to be his and his alone that morning, and I had ruined his plan.
I have been having a hard time shaking the memory of these interactions. It’s the woman who was with him that I keep seeing. She was small, both in size and demeanor. She said nothing and was expressionless. She stood at his elbow and when he moved, she moved.
Now, I admittedly have no idea what the nature of their relationship is, but my he’s-abusive alarms were ringing loudly. And there was nothing I could do about it.
At my college, I’m part of the team that helped our faculty move their winter quarter classes online for the end of the quarter. We’ve spent the last week helping our faculty get geared up to spend all of spring quarter online. While my focus has been on our faculty working from home, I’ve had to dedicate some time to thinking about my own spring quarter class and the students who will be in it.
And now I can’t help but think about everyone’s living situation. How many of our college’s faculty and staff are trapped at home 24/7 with an abuser? How many of our students? How many of your faculty, staff, and students?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (2020) reports
Here’s how COVID-19 could uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors:
Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.
Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.
Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.
Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.
Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.
An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.
Please consider sharing this information with faculty, staff, and students.
If you are living with an abuser, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Or you can visit thehotline.org and click the “Chat Now” button in the top right corner of the page.
After relating my grocery store experience to a colleague, they said they kept thinking about the LGBTQ youth who are now trapped at home with unsupportive family. And now I keep thinking about them, too.
Please consider sharing this information about how to get help from The Trevor Project (2020).
If you are an LGBTQ youth who is struggling or an ally who knows someone who is struggling, please call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678. Or you can visit TheTrevorProject.org on your computer to chat.
And there are children and teens who are living with abusive parents, guardians, or others for whom school may have been their only reprieve.
Please consider sharing this information about how to get help from Childhelp (2020).
If you are a teenager or child and you are being hurt by someone, know someone who may be, or are afraid that you may hurt someone, please call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or visit Childhelp.org for live chat.
Childhelp. (2020). https://www.childhelp.org/childhelp-hotline/
National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020). https://www.thehotline.org/
The Trevor Project. (2020). https://www.thetrevorproject.org/