University of Nevada, Reno
Extension provides information on how to help yourself or others
RENO – With the
COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place posing great challenges to families and
households in Nevada, University of Nevada, Reno, provides this information to
help our citizens respond to issues surrounding domestic violence during this
restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic continue, reports of violence in the
home are increasing in some areas. Contributing factors for this increase, such
as job loss, tight finances and constant close proximity to partners and
children, may not only amplify family violence, but also diminish the family’s
ability to engage in constructive communication or coping strategies. It’s more
important than ever to understand the challenges victims of domestic violence
face, the injury and health effects of domestic violence, and how to help
What exactly is domestic violence?
Domestic violence can take many forms. The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate partner relationship used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” The hotline/website further explains that domestic violence doesn’t just include physical and sexual violence, but can also include actions such as threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.
Challenges to seeking help
Seeking help from an abusive
situation is often difficult for victims for a variety of reasons, such as
fear, finances or lack of a support system. During the COVID-19 crisis, seeking
help or leaving is even more challenging. Victims are often having a more
difficult time accessing safe physical spaces and resources, such as nonprofit
services, community and family resource centers, and courts. In addition, going
to work and taking children to school often provide opportunities for victims
to talk with others about their situation, seek help or get a break from their
abusers. With schools and nonessential businesses closed, victims are often
lacking these opportunities.
Injury, illness and death
While the media reports the
devastating toll that the pandemic is taking each day, providing numbers of
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death, there are certainly other injuries
occurring where the pandemic is at least a major factor, including some
associated with domestic violence. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention found that 41 percent of female and 14 percent of male domestic
violence survivors experience some form of physical injury related to domestic
violence. Even worse, domestic violence can also result in death. About one in
six homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, and nearly half of
female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former male intimate
partner. Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for women killed by a current or
former intimate partner.
Domestic violence victims may also suffer from other negative health effects associated with intimate partner violence. Conditions may include chronic illnesses affecting the heart; the digestive, reproductive or nervous systems; and muscles and bones. Survivors may also experience mental health illnesses, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
How to help
Although the personal effects
of domestic violence are devastating, there are ways family members, friends,
neighbors and co-workers can help a victim. If you suspect that someone you
know might be a victim of domestic violence, ways to support him or her
Call 911 if the victim is in
Reach out to the victim by a
phone call, text, video conference or social media. Don’t give up, and don’t be
alarmed if the victim hangs up on you. He or she may not be safe having a
conversation, as the abuser may be monitoring the victim’s activities. Keep
trying to reach out by various means. The simple act of kindness in reaching
out may give a victim the hope needed during this time of the COVID-19 crisis,
which may be especially alienating and lonely.
Listen, and express compassion, respect and patience.
Remind the victim that she or
he does not deserve the abuse.
Offer to help the victim contact a domestic violence advocate to gather information.
Help the victim develop a
Help find supportive
community resources or online resources. Safe websites for victims have an
escape button, allowing users to leave the website without it appearing in the
browser history, or may have chat services.
Call the local justice or
family court to find out how a victim obtains a protective order during
COVID-19 office closures.
Remember that your role is to
support the victim and not make decisions for him or her.
Learn about domestic
If you hear or see abusive
behavior, report it immediately to your local law enforcement.
Additional resources to share
National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7 in more than 200 languages: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), https://www.thehotline.org/help/
StrongHearts Native Helpline, aimed at assisting American Indians and Alaskan Natives: 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483), https://www.strongheartshelpline.org/
Jill Baker-Tingey is an assistant professor and Extension educator with University of Nevada, Reno
Extension unit of the University’s College of Agriculture,
Biotechnology & Natural Resources.