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Domestic Violence Increases Due to COVID-19 Part I: How to Protect Yourself

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When Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued her emergency lockdown order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, it created an entirely unintended consequence. For those people living with domestic violence, being isolated with an abuser at home potentially puts them a greater risk of abuse.

And the numbers seem to be showing this. As more people spend extended periods of time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases. Law enforcement officials as well as domestic violence advocates throughout the Oregon are concerned that, because victims are in a uniquely vulnerable position due to the stay at home order and self-isolation, the number of domestic violence incidents will continue to rise.

Disturbingly, the escalation in domestic violence is not only happening in instances where there has been a history of violence, but also in cases where there isn’t a history of violence. Lay-offs and decreased hours of employment have led to more financial struggles, and when layered with a very natural fear of becoming sick, this has worked together to increase family stress. Additionally, when confined to a small space, with no opportunity for abuser and victim to separate from each other to cool down, people tend to lash out far more than usual. As these social distancing and lockdown restrictions tighten - not being allowed to go to work, children not allowed to go to school – it ends up creating a “pressure cooker” environment.

Not only are instances of physical abuse rising, mental, financial, and psychological abuse are also expected to surge over the coming weeks and months. These methods of abuse and control, while leaving no physical marks, are equally dangerous and destructive.

Sadly, abusers can use the coronavirus pandemic to take further advantage of their victims in a myriad of ways. The risk of being subjected to this abuse can become enhanced in several ways:

  • Abusive partners giving out misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten victims and to prevent them gaining a real understanding of their situation in order to make them more manipulative and submissive.
  • Abusive partners withholding insurance cards, threatening to cancel insurance, or preventing 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 a shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.
  • Victims who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may feel 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.

While leaving an abuser can be dangerous and difficult during these times, survivors can take actions and precautions to ready themselves for doing so if needed.

The first action should be to create a safety plan. Such a plan can include:

  • Call a women's shelter or domestic violence hotline for advice. Make the call at a safe time — when the abuser isn't around — or from a friend's house or other safe location, such as a local park.
  • Pack an emergency bag that includes items you'll need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Leave the bag in a safe place. Keep important personal papers, money and prescription medications handy so that you can take them with you on short notice.
  • Know exactly where you'll go and how you'll get there.

undefinedAn abuser can use technology to monitor your telephone and online communication and to track your location. To maintain your privacy:

  • Use phones cautiously. Your abuser might intercept calls and listen to your conversations. He or she might use caller ID, check your cellphone or search your phone billing records to see your call and texting history.
  • Use your home computer cautiously. Your abuser might use spyware to monitor your emails and the websites you visit. Consider using a computer at work, the library or at a friend's house to seek help.
  • Remove GPS devices from your vehicle. Your abuser might use a GPS device to pinpoint your location.
  • Frequently change your email password. Choose passwords that would be impossible for your abuser to guess.
  • Clear your viewing history. Follow your browser's instructions to clear any record of websites or graphics you've viewed.

However, it is important to know that, even in these times of business closures and reduced access to services, there are still venues available for you to get help. Here are some of the resources you can reach out to for help:

  • Call Emergency: 911
  • Call to Safety (Formerly Portland Women’s Crisis Line): 503-235-5333
    Toll-Free: 1-888-235-5333
  • Aging & Disability Services 24hr. Help Line: 503-988-3646
  • Alcohol & Drug Helpline: 1-800-923-4357: or 503-244-1312
    Spanish: 1-877-515-7848
    Teen: 1-877-553-8336
  • Child Abuse Hotline: 503-731-3100
    Toll-Free: 1-800-509-5439
  • City Of Portland Information And Referral: 503-823-4636
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
    Http://Www.ndvh.org/
  • Multnomah County Crisis Line: 503-988-4888
  • Clackamas Women’s Services: 503-722-2366
  • Volunteers Of America Home Free: 503-771-5503
  • Washington Co. Center for Victim Services: 503-846-3020

Domestic Violence Emergency Shelters:

  • Bradley-Angle House: 503-281-2442
  • Clackamas Women’s Services: 503-654-2288
  • Columbia Co. Women’s Resource Center: 1-503-397-6161
  • Domestic Violence Resource Center: 503-469-8620
  • Safechoice/Vancouver YWCA: 1-360-695-0501
  • Salvation Army West Women’s & Children’s: 503-224-7718
  • Yolanda House of YWCA: 503-977-7930 or 503-535-3266

Domestic abuse takes many forms and victims all too often are led to believe that their claims will not be believed if they come forward. If you feel that you or someone in your family may be subject to domestic abuse, please know that our firm has significant experience in representing clients who have survived the unimaginable, and we will never silence victims of domestic abuse. Rather, we are passionate about providing a voice for those who have been made to feel that they don’t have one and fervent in fighting for justice.

Do not wait to take action against your abuser and understand that you have not been forgotten during this time—domestic violence is a priority, and courts are still accepting cases for those who are in danger and need help. Attorneys at Landerholm Family Law can support you and encourage you to have the confidence and strength to take action to protect yourself and your children. If you are someone you know has been abused, please do not hesitate to contact our firm at (503) 227-0200 for the help you deserve.

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