Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, we’ve been told to stay home because it is safer. But for an increasing number of women, that couldn’t be further from the truth. And I’m not talking about Covid-19.
What if the person you are required to stay at home with is physically or mentally abusive and you have no place to go, sometimes not even as much as another room?
With money getting tighter and emotions getting more and more on edge, domestic violence, which is already way too high, is on the rise as more and more people are being asked or required to stay indoors. What’s even more scary is that gun sales are also on the rise.
More and more cities around the country are reporting increased reports of domestic violence. And those being abused have nowhere to run. Because of Covid-19, shelters accommodate fewer women in order to maintain six feet of separation. That leads to bed shortages that seem to mirror what we hear going on with hospital beds.
The problem seems to have no one area or no one population density. From rural to urban, from small town to metropolises, shelter in place has increasingly become a place where victims of domestic violence are trapped.
According to Daily Kos, Los Angeles police reported a staggering 244 domestic abuse calls in just one day, representing a 240% increase over the previous month’s daily average of such calls. CNN reported that between March 12 and 23, 2020, the number of domestic violence arrests in Portland, Oregon increased 27% compared with a year earlier. Boston domestic assault and battery reports jumped 22% between March 2019 and March 2020, and during that same time frame, Seattle domestic violence reports increased 21%.
But it’s not just the urban areas that are seeing a rise in domestic violence. There was a 55% increase in Hidalgo County, Texas, and counties in Alabama and Florida saw an increase in calls by 90% in a single week. What makes is so difficult is that the person who is doing the abuse is sitting right next to the person receiving it, which makes it nearly impossible to reach out for help. It can literally shelter in place into a dangerous challenge. With so little space, the abusers can exert enormous control over those forced into the same limited living area.
Even without the impact of Covid-19, domestic violence and intimate partner violence (IPV) has a tremendous impact on menopause symptoms, according to JAMA Internal Medicine. Kaiser Permanente in Northern California studies 2,000 women age 40 to 80. Over their lifetime, 21% had experience IPV, 15.7% sexual assault, and 22.5% had experienced PTSD.
Symptoms included data from 2000 women age 40 to 80 years in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system. It was a cross-sectional analysis, examining lifetime physical or emotional IPV, sexual assault, and current symptoms of PTSD. In addition, participants submitted questionnaires on difficulty sleeping, vasomotor symptoms, and vaginal symptoms. Among the most common symptoms are difficulty sleeping, hot flashes, and vaginal symptoms.
In a survey of nearly 4,000 menopausal women performed at the Mayo Clinic and reported in the journal Menopause, 6.8% reported at least one form of abuse in the past year, which included answering yes to the question, “Have been kicked, slapped or kicked in the past year,” or “in the past year have you been forced to have sexual activities or verbally abused?”
If you are staying at home and feel unsafe, here are some resources you can use.
From the Mother Jones article:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline takes calls 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If it is not safe for you to talk, safely, visit thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
Here is a list of organizations assembled by The Department of Health and Human Services. The CNN article lists the following resources as well:
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.
Office on Women’s Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662