Addressing Intimate Partner Violence in the Wake of COVID-19

Across the lifespan, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the United States will experience severe physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking at the hands of their intimate partner. When it comes to psychological aggression, more than 43 million women and 38 million men have been affected by an intimate partner’s emotional attacks. Here in Connecticut approximately 20,000 family violence incidents occur annually. The damage of intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic abuse doesn’t end with physical manifestations. As the CDC reports, other outcomes associated with IPV include “a range of conditions affecting the heart, digestive, reproduction, muscle and bones, and nervous systems, many of which are chronic.” Going even further, survivors are at risk of severe mental health complications and are at a higher risk to engage in activities such as smoking and binge drinking.

The last year of social isolation has not helped alleviate this crisis. As Rebecca Beebe, PhD, Amy Hunter, MPH, PhD, and Susie DiVietro, PhD wrote for Trauma Matters last summer, “For people who use violence, the pandemic presents new and increased opportunities for control, abuse, and access to victims.” This, combined with the fact that the pandemic has “reduced the number of mandated reporters with eyes on children, and reduced access to support,” has put survivors at greater risk of continued and escalated abuse.

The link between the pandemic and IPV is not shocking; however, it does present a unique problem for survivors and the networks of clinicians, agencies, and community members they rely on. Recognizing this, Futures Without Violence compiled a list of recommendations and resources for those whose IPV circumstances are exacerbated by physical distancing and isolation. Their suggestions include asking others to check-in regularly in a COVID-safe manner as well as a recommendation to view the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s own COVID-specific resources.

With that in mind, other resources for survivors include:  

  • 2-1-1 Connecticut, which features a list of germane resources — including hotlines, agencies, and legal tools crucial to those struggling with domestic violence. One key excerpt explains: “In Connecticut, there is a statewide network of domestic violence programs that can be reached by calling the statewide domestic violence hotline, 1-888-774-2900 (English); 1-844-831-9200 (Spanish). The programs provide shelter for victims of domestic violence, as well as counseling and other supportive services. Shelter is usually limited to female victims and their children; however, male victims are offered other support services and assistance in locating a safe place to stay. In addition, there is a National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233), which provides domestic violence crisis intervention and referrals to domestic violence service providers throughout the United States.”

  • The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s online library, which features all of Connecticut’s premier resources for domestic abuse survivors. These incorporate resources for teens, the elderly, and community-specific resources for communities of color. The site additionally hosts a list of 18 agencies focused solely on IPV and domestic abuse relief.

For clinicians working in this arena, educational resources, such as the Consortium's upcoming training Intimate Partner Violence: Screening & Intervention for Behavioral Health Professionals and 2-1-1 Connecticut’s resource map can make all the difference in your ability to meet the needs of your clients. Education enables providers to assess their clients’ circumstances and needs with the ease that only expertise can provide. As we embark against the new challenges the pandemic has wrought, it is pivotal to remain up to date on the resources and best practices available for survivors of IPV.  

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