Coronavirus precautions that closed many workplaces and schools have forced victims of domestic abuse to shelter with their abusers and complicated the process of seeking help.
Connie Kane, a licensed professional counselor and clinical director at Crisis Services of North Alabama, said victims of domestic abuse have fewer opportunities to reach out to authorities or crisis services while isolated with their abusers.
“When you are in a domestic violence situation, your phone is being monitored,” she said. “If you reach to call 911 in front of your abuser, your phone could be broken or taken away.”
Cane added that many of the calls that Crisis Services is receiving come from neighbors or from a victim who has found a safe place inside their residence to call. Other calls have come from a victim who found an opportunity to call while on an errand.
Kathryn Cox, a licensed professional counselor based in Decatur, added that many victims of abuse could also be worried that they will be exposed to the virus if they are transferred to a domestic violence or abuse shelter.
She said the tension created by extended periods of isolation could contribute to situations escalating to domestic abuse as well.
“The abuser’s anxieties are coming out too, so their fear and anxiety could translate to more abuse,” she said.
Kane said that Crisis Services’ call volume decreased while more restrictive state health orders were in place during the month of April but is now picking back up.
Decatur police spokeswoman Emily Long said the department received 23 domestic violence calls from April 19 to May 19, up from 14 calls during that time period in 2019.
A recent complaint filed with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office related to a domestic violence charge stated that the suspect was “yelling, cussing and throwing things” at the victim, and that the suspect came back after deputies left and “started cursing and threatening her that he would hit her if he did not get his way,” according to court records.
Cox said there is anxiety surrounding calling the police as well.
“Some aren’t calling the police because if their abuser isn’t arrested, they’re stuck,” she said.
Another recent complaint filed with the Sheriff’s Office said the victim stated that her partner was “punching her in the face and hitting her in the head,” court records revealed.
The complaint went on to say that the man “pushed her out the door and fired multiple shots at her,” according to court documents.
Cox said that warning signs that someone is dealing with abuse are also not as easily spotted during virus restrictions because victims of abuse aren’t able to go to public spaces such as offices.
“As long as these people do not have any way to get out, no one can see them to see the signs,” she said.
Kane said some of the warning signs include “gaslighting,” or when an abuser manipulates the victim into questioning their own memory, perception or judgment.
“It’s very tough, because you’re told that nobody cares about you and that the only person you have is your abuser,” she said.
Victims of abuse can reach out to Crisis Services of North Alabama 24/7 at 256-716-1000. Crisis Services also receives text messages at 256-722-8219 from 4-11:30 p.m.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also open 24/7 for calls at 1-800-799-7233 or by text LOVEIS to 22522.