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Domestic violence: An epidemic within a pandemic

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October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month. First introduced in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the goal is to bring awareness to the millions of victims of domestic violence.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all cross sections of society, but no one is probably suffering more than domestic violence victims during these times. Stay-at-home orders during the pandemic has only aggravated the situation for domestic violence victims as they are now trapped with their abusers. 

“Domestic violence increases during times of stress. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Regardless of the circumstances, you matter,” said Col. Paul Skipworth, 446th Airlift Wing commander here. “This theme needs to be emphasized, not just in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but every day.”

What is domestic violence?

According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV), it is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically.

NCADV statistics indicate that on a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes. Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior. And 60.8% of female victims and 43.5% male victims reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner.

In King County alone, there has been 13 domestic violence homicides to date in 2020 compared to seven such incidents in all of 2019, according to NCADV.

“For victims of domestic violence, their already tumultuous living situation has been exacerbated by the quarantine,” said Kristi McCann, Director of Psychological Health for the 446th AW. “Prior to the pandemic, it was commonly asked, ‘why don’t victims leave?’ While the question seems obvious, the answer was never simple. During these times, it is even harder to leave. But regardless if they leave or not, I encourage them to seek help if and when needed.”

If a person cannot get out of their current situation at home, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends the following:

Create a Safety Plan

Safety plans are personalized plans that include ideas on how to stay safe while in a relationship with someone who is abusive. These plans often include steps to take when leaving and how to stay safe afterward.

Understand Options May Be Limited

Before the coronavirus pandemic, women often had the option to go to shelters or to stay with family or friends. Unfortunately, options are now limited. Some shelters may be full or closed and staying with a family member may no longer be an option. Find out ahead of time which houses you might be able to escape to should you need to find a safe place to stay.

Keep Everything Together

Make sure you have all of your important documents handy and that you know the address to your nearest police station. You also should have some money on hand or a credit card, as well as a bag with some clothes, medicines, and personal items. Keep your phone and keys nearby as well. You will need to grab these things quickly if you need to escape.

Stay in Touch With People

If possible, you should try to stay in touch with family and friends. Use text messaging, FaceTime, social media, email, or other online options to communicate when you can. It's important to build a support network of people who can encourage you and support you during this difficult time.

Reach Out for Help

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. You also can use their online chat option to talk privately with an advocate. These professionals can guide you in how to handle your situation or simply lend a supportive ear to listen. If you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto www.thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

Additional 446th AW resources are the Airman and Family Readiness at 253-982-5530; our Chaplains are available 24/7 by phone or text at 253-341-0136 or at the office at 253-982-0330; and Psychological Health Program at 253-982-5496.