You know your situation better than anyone, so please build your safety plan in the way that feels safest for you. If something does not feel safe, trust your instincts.
Abuse in the pandemic era:
Isolation: Abusive partners may feel more justified to escalate isolating the victim/survivors from their loved ones. They may also use this as a time to further restrict a victim/survivor’s movement in person, controlling where they go and when. They might also control a victim/survivor’s interactions online or over the phone, limiting their access to the outside world.
Restricted Access to Information or Safety Items: Abusive partners may also restrict access to the news and other outlets, making themselves the source of all information and potentially giving the victim/survivor false information to control or frighten them. Abusive partners may also withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or face masks.
Restricted Access to Medical Care: Abusive partners may prevent a victim from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms, including withholding an insurance card needed to access medical attention.
Travel Restrictions: Travel restrictions may impact a victim/survivor’s ability to escape to a safe location.
Increased Abuse: The abuse may worsen during this time as victim/survivors may be spending more time in close proximity with their Abusive partners. Victim/survivors may also experience new or different types of abuse during this time.
In-Person and Digital Stalking: Abusive partners might try to exert their power by trying to monitor, control and stalk victim/survivors in person and digitally.
Financial Abuse: Many individuals are experiencing financial burdens due to being unable to work, and abusive partners may further financially exploit victim/survivors during this time.
Parenting: Victim/survivors who co-parent their children with their Abusive partners may be facing unique challenges during these times, such as barriers to visitation and/or increased exposure to the abuser due to lack of accessible childcare. For example, in order for a victim/survivor to work, they may need to utilize their abuser for childcare. An abuser might also try to use COVID-19 as a reason to not allow the victim/survivor to see their children.
Safety Tips in the time of COVID-19
Social Connections: With social distancing and quarantining, victim/survivors can feel even more isolated, and abusive partners may use further isolation as a power and control tactic. Try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so, and try to make it part of a daily routine. Identify trusted friends, relatives or even online support groups where you can still connect virtually.
Computers/Technology: Try to use a safer computer or phone that someone abusive does not have direct or remote (hacking) access to. If you don’t have a “safer” computer, make sure to delete any emails or texts that you do not want the abuser to see.
Peaceful Space: Many victim/survivors are feeling forced to spend more time with an abuser during the coronavirus outbreak. If you cannot leave your home, try to create a “peaceful space” for yourself in your home (if that is safe for you). You can hang peaceful pictures, put up positive affirmation/quotes, or keep an item in that space that helps ground you.
Trusted Individuals/Code Words: Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual or verbal signal/code for when you need help. Also, teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner, but plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.
Safest Areas: Identify the safest areas of the house where there are no weapons (including knives in the kitchen) and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas. No room may feel safe, so we call it the “safest rooms”. If you can at least identify the lowest risk areas, you may be able to reduce harm. And remember to not run to where the children are, as they may get hurt as well.
Make Yourself a Small Target: If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
Pre- Safety Steps: Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you. Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible. Think of several plausible reasons for leaving the house (grocery store, bank, gas) that you could use if you need to leave.
Escape Plan: In case you have to flee, create an exit plan ahead of time with someone who could support this need. Is there a trusted friend/relative who you can stay with, if needed? Pack an emergency bag with an extra set of keys, clothes for you and your children, a pay as you go cell phone, medications, copies of important documents, etc. Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
Phone Access: If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter. If your life is in danger, call the police.
Access to Resources: If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you need help safety planning, goal setting, getting questions answered about the criminal justice system, filing for a protection order, etc. you can call Advocates of Routt County 24/7 at 970.879.8888. If your unable to use your phone because of close proximate to an abusive partner, you can text 911 or email Advocates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Practice self-care: COVID-19 is causing uncertainty for many people, but getting through this time while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. Taking time for your health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel.