Domestic Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written By: The Women’s Center’s Staff

October 1, 2020

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year, it is especially important to raise awareness as domestic violence has been reported to be at peak levels across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Waukesha County, dispatchers reported 33.8% more calls about domestic violence incidents and law enforcement have seen a significant increase in high lethality cases. Additionally, we received an 18% increase in calls made by law enforcement to our 24-Hour Hotline between April and June this year.

How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected survivors:

For victims of domestic violence who were already living in a state of perpetual fear prior to COVID-19, or survivors who have a lot of triggers and fear as a result of a rape, the feeling of being scared and not sure who or what to believe are amplified.

When the Safer at Home order was issued, that fear became two-fold: fear of the unknown regarding a new global pandemic, and fear of 24/7 lockdown with someone intent on harming and controlling you. The reprieve provided by jobs or school, or maybe family and friends, was no longer available to serve as a mild buffer.

The very technique used to protect people from the virus contrarily caused those already in abusive relationships more harm. The new, stressful situations that arose as a result of COVID-19 affected patterns of verbal and emotional abuse, causing escalation to physical or sexual violence.

There was little, if any, opportunity for someone to escape, especially with children, because the abuser was always home. If the victim was also out of work, their ability to save money to get out safely had been hindered. They had to navigate meeting their basic needs, those of their children, and likely the needs of their abuser.

How we have responded:

Our emergency shelter and confidential 24-Hour Hotline have remained open around the clock to provide a critical lifeline for those without a place to turn. During the Safer at Home Order, our Advocates worked remotely and provided support over the phone to reduce stress and crisis symptoms, develop safety plans, connect to community resources, and encourage survivors. We adapted from full hour-long sessions to shorter, more frequent calls throughout the week because of children’s or abuser’s schedules.

Since we were unable to host in-person support groups, we launched our Wednesday Workshop Podcast to share strategies to heal and move beyond the trauma inflicted by domestic and sexual violence. We also provided other virtual resources, such as videos of story time and activities for children, to supplement phone check-ins.

Now, Advocates are on-site and provide both in-person and phone appointments for clients. In addition to emergency shelter and our 24-Hour Hotline, we are supporting crisis walk-ins and providing legal advocacy, family support, employment and life skills training, and more from our offices.

How you can help:

Community support powers our programs, which in turn empower survivors each and every day. You can help by providing wish list items, making a monetary donation, or participating in Domestic Violence Awareness Month – request your FREE virtual toolkit here!