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Domestic violence rising with COVID-19?

By CATHY THOMAS BROWNFIELD

Family Recovery Center publicist

The future still bears question marks for a lot of things. Headlines report that families are changing vacations to staycations. School districts are trying on different ideas for what school could look like in August. Parents who are working are worried about what is going on at home without adequate supervision. Stress and anxiety are hanging around and growing. And Gov. Mike DeWine keeps telling us the virus is going to be with us for a long while.

One of the dangers of high stress and anxiety at this time of crisis is domestic violence – intimate partner abuse and child abuse and neglect.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Americans are required to stay home to protect themselves and their communities,” advises SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) “However, the home may not be safe for many families who experience domestic violence.”

The rise of domestic violence may be a new happening because of high anxiety and stress. In other homes it may have been ongoing for a while. The risks of injury and even death are higher. Mental health – emotional and mental abuse – is often overlooked because it’s impossible to see what is going on inside a person. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You just can’t see it. Other risks include PTSD, substance use, depression, risky sexual behaviors and the development of chronic health conditions.

Social distancing and quarantine could cause a significant rise in domestic violence. “A stay-at-home order can force victims to stay in a dangerous situation,” according to SAMHSA.

It is known that children in low socio-economic status are five times more likely than children from high socio-economic status to experience abuse or neglect. SAMHSA says one in seven children have experienced neglect and abuse. And at this time it is easier to hide because of the isolation that has been created by COVID-19.

“It’s not uncommon for domestic violence abusers to isolate their victims as an act of control or to reduce opportunity for disclosure about abuse, and the current societal conditions are likely furthering the impact of these actions,” writes Andrew M. Campbell in “An increasing risk of family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic: Strengthening community collaborations to save lives.” The article can be found at www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov.

Campbell cites abuser surveillance of electronics and technology in the home. Schools, libraries and churches are closed and out of reach. There is no respite from what may be going on in the home. Stress. Unemployment. Reduced income. Limited resources. Limited support. Alcohol abuse. Campbell says that with bars and restaurants closed, alcohol abuse is more likely to be going on in the home. And there are a lot of concerns about the rise of domestic violence-related homicides around the globe.

This crisis is something that none of us has experienced, so many unknowns. The only things that come close to helping us to understand the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence is in looking at human reactions to natural disasters. What is seen is that during natural disasters we can see higher stress, interruptions to daily routines, school closings and the loss of community resources and the quick reduction of other available resources.

These are challenging times, for sure. But it isn’t the first time Ohioans have been challenged by adversity. As Gov. DeWine has said consistently, “We are in this together.”

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded, in part, by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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