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Domestic violence: Staying safe during COVID-19

A woman with a somber expression sitting inside her home.

Health officials caution that home is the safest place to be as the coronavirus spreads. But that may not be true for people experiencing domestic violence. Being trapped at home with an abuser can make abuse—and not just physical abuse—worse.

Abuse is about power and control. As a result, while sheltering in place, abusers may do things like withhold hand sanitizer or threaten to cancel health insurance. They may also try to stop their partners from getting medical care or further isolate them from others by using scare tactics.

Make a plan

That's why it's crucial to have a safety plan ready if you're a victim of domestic violence and under a stay-at-home order. That plan should include how to leave in the safest way possible.

You also should have contact information for:

  • A neighbor, friend or relative you can go to for help in a crisis.
  • A nearby emergency shelter.

But keep in mind: Shelters may be full during the pandemic. So you may need to sleep in a motel or in your car, at least for a while. Contact your nearby shelters to see if they have space.

If you do remain at home, stay in touch with supportive friends and family with phone calls and online communication, if it's safe. Reaching out can help ease some of the stress of this very difficult time for you.

Now more than ever, practice good self-care too. As much as possible, try to stick to your daily routine and make time for exercise and sleep. Caring for yourself can make a big difference in how you feel.

When someone you know is being abused

If someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, you may not be able to offer face-to-face support during the pandemic. But that doesn't mean you're helpless. Encourage your loved one to think about their own well-being and a safety plan.

Let them know that abuse is never their fault. Empower them to make good decisions, and tell them that you're available to listen and help as much as you can.

Are you in an abusive relationship?

To get support—including help creating a safety plan—call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233. If you're unable to speak, text LOVEIS to 22522.

Sources: National Domestic Violence Hotline; World Health Organization

Reviewed 7/1/2020

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