Entrenched in a terrifying global surge of domestic violence, with conditions for abuse that are ideal for abusers, COVID-19 continues to have an especially devastating impact on victims of abuse and domestic violence. Over the last 15 months, CHANA has seen a 75% increase in calls and a 153% increase in need for emergency shelter.
Domestic violence, already an epidemic across the world, spikes when households are placed under increased stress and strain. Increased tension due to physical health risks, quarantine and job-loss are just some of the factors that have led to increased volatility. Restrictive measures, closure of schools, lack of transportation, and decreasing options for daycare and safe shelter have all magnified an already difficult situation, making it more challenging to flee an abusive relationship. Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that one in three women would experience intimate partner violence at some point during their lifetimes. Many of these women are now trapped at home with their abusers. With safe harbors cut off, more and more people are left suffering what has become known as the “shadow pandemic” of domestic abuse. It is only when the restrictions begin to lift, that the full scope of the domestic violence crisis can truly be known.
What we do know is that sexual abuse, elder abuse and intimate partner violence have a reverberating impact on communities around the world, and our own community is not immune. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. The economic impacts are vast, with reports of up to 8 million lost work days per year, and up to 60% of victims reporting job loss due to reasons stemming from abuse. The impact on health -mental, physical, emotional and spiritual is also immense, with DV being directly correlated with increased depression and suicidality. And perhaps the most disturbing statistic of all – girls and young women between the age of 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – almost triple the national average. This is also the group least likely to reach out for help.
As domestic violence rates continue to surge amid the pandemic, we at CHANA know that bolstering awareness is our best strategy for decreasing the impact of abuse of all types. Together, CHANA and The Associated are working to build a strong, safe and nurturing community, where no one falls through the cracks. Investing in our community with an expanded focus on prevention will equip people with the resources necessary to end the cycle of violence. Now more than ever, we must find ways to stay connected as a community. No one should feel alone or without the support they need, and there is a role for everyone in our work to create a safe, nurturing community.
Advocacy in Action
As CHANA works to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence, elder abuse and sexual abuse, we want to invite you to be a part of our work. Chances are someone in your life is a survivor of sexual harassment, assault or abuse. If they disclose to you, believe them. Offer your support in a non-judgmental way and refer them to CHANA. We invite you to work alongside us in preventing abuse and violence by joining in our events and discussions and sharing them on social media. This October, in recognition of domestic violence awareness month, CHANA will host our 3rd Annual Voices event. This year, the event will be led by violence prevention advocate Bill Mitchell, author of When Dating Hurts. Mr. Mitchell will offer a father’s wisdom gained following the tragic loss of his 21 year old daughter to domestic violence. The talk will include important information for people of every age and will be offered to the community with no charge – all are encouraged to attend.
As more people are vaccinated and case counts finally start to drop, we will begin to see an end to the quarantine. But just as the increase in calls during the lockdown indicated, abuse is on the rise, and once restrictions are lifted we predict there will be many more individuals seeking to leave their abusers behind. In this time of increasing violence, CHANA’s advocates are here for those in need.
For more information on the warning signs of abuse or how to become involved please visit our website at chanabaltimore.org. If you or someone you love is in danger, please call us at 410-234-0030 or reach us via secure chat on our website Monday -Friday 10am-2pm.