For some, following stay-at-home recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic is torture. For others, it is bliss. But for an increasing number of people, it is downright dangerous.
Patricia Rehmer, Vice President of behavioral health for Hartford HealthCare, said the incidence of domestic violence in Connecticut have risen more than 20 percent since people were told to shelter in place. There have been similar increases in child abuse reports.
“It’s directly related to how people are coping,” she said. “I’m concerned that people are struggling with anxiety, depression and fear. We have to be in tune with people at risk for domestic violence.”
The financial and food instability during the pandemic, which has seen a record number of job losses, compounds the anxiety of catching the virus itself, and can leave abuse victims even more vulnerable to violence at home.
Moreover, Rehmer noted that some typical ways abuse is uncovered – by alert teachers in the classroom, for example – are not in place right now with schools, offices and many other places closed as a result of the pandemic.
Domestic violence is generally spurred by an individual’s need to maintain control by exerting power physically, emotionally or sexually over another. Types of abuse can include:
- Physical abuse. This can range from seemingly minor attacks like a shove to more lethal moves such as choking or punching.
- Emotional attacks meant to disparage the victim’s abilities or appearance, humiliate them or blame them.
- Intimidation. Abusers want to keep their victim anxious through verbal and physical threats. They will even threaten to kill themselves to get their way.
- Sexual abuse.
- Financial abuse. Abusers try to prevent victims from leaving by limiting access to money.
- Isolation. Some abusers will limit the person’s ability to visit with family and friends.
“Intimate-partner violence is a healthcare issue,” said Dr. Susie DiVietro, a research scientist with the Injury Prevention Center who developed a safety card offering 24/7 help through Connecticut Safe Connect. The card is given out by healthcare providers to all patients to educate and empower them.
Domestic violence can be deadly, so anyone experiencing abuse should take steps to be safe, including talking to family, friends or a primary care or behavioral health provider. Help is available 24/7 at CT Safe Connect (888.774.2900).
The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling 1.888.984.2408.
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