Domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreakThe coronavirus is currently giving us a hard time in Quebec and pretty much everywhere in the world. This is a time of worries and upheavals for everyone. Unfortunately, the current situation accentuates difficulties for victims of domestic violence and for their children.
1. Loss of safe spaces
For victims of domestic violence, going to work, to school, shopping for groceries or spending time at the gym is very important. Outside activities become safe spaces that allow them to catch their breath and get in touch with a reality where they don't have to walk on eggshells and constantly be on alert.
Physical distance and being able to meet benevolent and sympathetic people also allow them to receive validation and a positive view of themselves, which contrasts with their partners' attitude. These breaks in their reality provide a mental "shield" that helps victims to keep on going despite the situation of violence. It helps build up resilience. The ongoing confinement reduces (or eliminates entirely) opportunities to access safe spaces, for victims of domestic violence and their children.
2. From staying home to forcible confinement
Our governments ask us to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of covid-19. Unfortunately, abusers may use this as a “reason” to coerce their victims even more, by forcing them to stay inside the house (through threats or guilt) and thus keeping them from the few opportunities still available, such as going for a walk, grocery shopping or just going out in the yard.
The confinement recommended by authorities can then become a justification for real forcible (and sometimes criminal) confinement for victims of domestic violence.
3. Adding stress to traumaVictims of domestic violence (current victims but also those who have been in the past) are exposed to micro-trauma on a daily basis and to greater trauma on an episodic basis. Many of them (and their children) are already suffering from post-traumatic stress, with all that that entails. It will therefore be even more difficult for them to cope with the stress related to the pandemic, which may result in increased difficulties: anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, pervasive memories, depression, etc.
4. Escalation of violence… when domestic abuse is present
The current situation creates stress for everyone. But for the majority of us, this stress will not become a pretext for violence. A respectful person will simply become a respectful… stressed person. On the other hand, in relationships where a dynamic of domestic violence was already present or in the process of being installed, violent partners may exert more violence. In this escalation, there may be new forms of violence, increased intensity (it can become more “striking”) or it may be used more frequently.
Source : SOS violence conjugale SOS-INFO volume 11, mars 2020.
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