With the increase of COVID-19 cases, many North Dakotans are spending more time at home. While this may reduce the spread of the virus, for victims of abuse, more time at home can be scary, leading them to feel even more anxious during this uncertain time.
During a stressful time like this, many people are unemployed and/or unable to pay their bills. This can increase the chances of domestic violence within the home.
“That stress builds and it does often lead to an increase in violence. I don’t want to scare anybody, it’s just a possibility,” said Tara Bjornson, assistant director, Domestic Violence Crisis Center.
Bjornson said abuse is all about power and control and it looks different for everyone. It can be physical, emotional or sexual. And during a time of crisis, an abuser may use fear to keep the victim from trying to flee.
“Using misinformation, ‘if you go outside, you’re going to catch it. If you talk to anyone on the phone, you’re going to hurt.’ They just kind of really use a lot of that fear-based tactics to control them,” said Carrie Ann Richardson-Ozuna, children’s program and clinical services coordinator.
Bjornson said the victim knows their abuser best and what cues or warning signs to look out for.
“Know how to mitigate the violence a little bit. It just gets exhausting when it’s really unpredictable in times like this,” said Bjornson.
Bjornson and Richardson-Ozuna recommend the victims focus on what they can control. For example, they can’t control the other person’s reactions or emotions, but they can control their own.
Richardson-Ozuna also said it’s important to maintain relationships with friends, family or co-workers. And the No. 1 thing to do is have a safety plan.
“Letting them know kind of what you’re home situation is and maybe having a code word or a number. If you text them saying, ‘bread,’ or something like that they know that they need to call the police or get in touch with us to help you in a situation,” said Richardson-Ozuna.
The DVCC is now offering online services to victims.
An online support group and one-on-one chat allow them to send a quick message to a domestic violence advocate when they aren’t able to make a phone call.
Richardson-Ozuna also said it’s difficult to know what is going on inside someone’s home, but if you are worried about someone, you can have a welfare check done.
To chat online, click here.
National domestic violence hotline, click here.
Futures without violence, click here.
National Network to End Domestic Violence, click here.