Family Violence During the Pandemic

Dra. Isabel Gomez Bassols | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: La Red Hispana

A new study found that the confinement from the pandemic, as well as the stress caused by the loss of family members, or of employment, have deepened another pandemic, that of domestic violence. Domestic violence has many faces, it can be physical, emotional, psychological, economic or sexual.

One in four women and one in 10 men experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. Tragically, victims of domestic violence in our Hispanic communities often carry a double burden, since in many cases they are vulnerable migrant women who not only suffer from systematic abuse, but fear seeking help due to their immigration status.

You may have a neighbor or family member who is experiencing domestic violence, and you don’t know how to help them. I will share some ideas with you.

The most important thing is to LISTEN, because that person is the only one who can tell you what really happens at home, in her life, in her relationship. The main thing is to tell him that you are there to support. Listen without interrupting, without judging, do not think that what he tells you is false. Take care of the way you listen and the tone of your voice when you speak to him.

Pay attention to your own fears, prejudices, and beliefs. Your experiences serve only you. You should not think that your way of dealing with this situation is the only effective way, nor do you think that you are going to be the rescuer of this relationship. If you lecture the person becomes defensive and will not seek help.

Do not blame the victim for what happens to her, or punish her with your words about why she continues with this relationship. If you are dealing with a person of another culture or race, do not make racist comments.

Help them create a safety plan for victims or survivors of violence during this pandemic. Ask them what their strengths and resources are in protecting their children.

You can help them assess their situation, such as asking them what things they can control right now and which ones they cannot control. Help them identify power and how they can keep their children healthy. This may include being able to listen to your fears and feelings.

How to identify patterns and triggers of violence and abuse:

Identify your partner’s behavior patterns before you explode, for example, your voice changes, you start to sweat, speed up, and flail.

Once these patterns have been identified, the person can think of ways to use the time to prepare for outbreaks of violence and not just protect himself and her children during times of greatest danger.

The following recommendations are for those who are victims of a violent relationship.

Try to stay in touch with people in the community with other members of your trusted community. Even members of your religious community. Identify a person you trust with whom you can talk about possible danger when there is imminent danger in your home.

Identify safe spaces in your home or yard for the most stressful moments, it could be watching a movie, being in the garage, or going for a walk. Make sure that if there are firearms that they are locked and out of the reach of children. If you have an argument, do not be in the kitchen or in a place where there is a gun.

Have a suitcase ready, in case you need some time aside, also clothes, have copies of your important documents, medicines, items to disinfect.

In the case that you do not live with your ex-partner and you need to pick up or take your children, follow the following recommendations:

Someone accompanies you. Let them know when you are going to go, do not get out of the car, practice adequate social distancing. You can call the Domestic Violence Helpline 24 hours a day at 800-799-7233.

Most of the shelters are full, but hotels, churches and other spaces are being used to support the public. Help is at your fingertips.