The Cycle of Abuse: Staying Safe During the COVID-19


15 Mar

The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has everyone in a panic as they prepare to maintain their health and take precautions to avoid encountering the disease. A decrease in mental health is expected as people become more terrified, anxious, and stressed over the unknown circumstances of the COVID-19. Everyone has began to take precautionary measures; some school have closed and moved their courses online, businesses are making preparations in case of closures, and even therapists are looking into the possibility of moving their practices virtually until the COVID-19 crisis is over. The concerns for school closures are the children who do not have food, water, or an overall safe environment and utilizes school as their haven. So, how do we prepare for the COVID-19?

How to Prepare

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

It is advised to stay at home when you are sick, call your health care provider’s office in advance for a visit, limit movement in the community, and limit visitors. It is also recommended to wash your hands often, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. But what happens when home isn’t a safe place?

The Cycle of Abuse

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States (which equates to more than 10 million women and men). The first thing that may come to mind is, “Why stay in such a toxic relationship.” Understanding the cycle of abuse is one answer to this proposed question. There are four stages of the cycle of abuse which includes:

  • The Tension Building Phase: Stressors from the pressure of daily life event, conflicts in the household, or other triggering factors can increase tension levels. The victim of abuse may begin to try and decrease the tension by doing everything that the abuser asks.
  • The Abuse Incident: Abuse can occur in the form of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Abuse also includes anger, intimidation, and threats.
  • The Honeymoon Phase: The abuser will apologize for their abusive behavior, beg for forgiveness, and make false promises that the abuse will never occur again. The abuser will likely start to give gifts and shower you with love and affection.
  • The Calm Phase: The abuse may enter a phase of calmness where there are no active or high amount of abuse present. This is where the survivor may lower their guard and stay with the abuser due to the abuser seemingly making behavioral changes.

Understanding the Impact that COVID-19 has on Intimate Partner Violence Survivors

The initial response to the COVID-19 is to grab as much groceries and household supplies as possible and stay at home. While avoiding public places and working from home may sound ideal, home may not be the safest place for people who are in abusive relationships. The abuser may use this COVID-19 crisis to their advantage and try and gain more control over their partner. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, here are some ways that COVID-19 can impact intimate partner violence survivors:

  • Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.
  • Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
  • Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.
  • Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.
  • Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.
  • Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.
  • An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.

Maintaining Safety

It is recommended by the National Domestic Violence Hotline that survivors should create a safety plan, practice self-care, and reach out for help when in need during this crisis. If you suspect someone you know may be in an abusive relationship during this crisis, check in on them. It’s important to know that you are not alone, and help is available.


References:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

https://ncadv.org/statistics

https://www.thehotline.org/

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