With millions of Americans forced to shelter in place as COVID-19 is reaching its peak of contamination, many individuals who face a different sort of danger are left at risk. For many, sheltering in place means being alone with their abuser for extended periods. Though many call centers and resources are seeing a decline in calls from survivors of domestic violence, police are reporting an increase in violence.
Why? Right now, many courts are closed due to coronavirus, leaving only the most severe cases to be heard. For many, the fear of being with their abuser is life or death. So what can be done to protect these individuals and their children from domestic violence during COVID-19?
Know The Signs
With many working from home, and with schools being closed, the opportunity for others to step in and help someone who is experiencing violence at home is minimal. But there are ways to know the signs of domestic violence and child abuse.
- The survivor has been cut off from external communication.
- Physical signs of abuse.
- The survivor is never alone.
- Severe restrictions on necessities.
In addition to these signs, those survivors who have been able to reach out have reported the virus being used to manipulate them into staying with their abuser. Some report that their abuser has thrown them out after showing symptoms of COVID-19 and taking their children away from them.
Resources For Survivors
Though you may feel like no one can help, there are ways to seek protection from your abuser and to protect you and your children. Futures Without Violence has created resources for survivors for getting help.
The organization also suggests that if you can, reach out to people you trust who can check in with you and ensure you are safe. Such people may be a friend, co-worker or family member. In addition, if you know and are close to people who are connected with your abuser, let them know what is happening as they may be able to be a support to you during shelter in place orders.
You may also be able to seek an emergency order against your abuser.
Although the courts are closed, in some states, like Pennsylvania, survivors of domestic abuse seeking a Protection From Abuse petition (PFA) may be able to receive an Emergency Order.
An on-call judge may be permitted to grant the PFA if there is a serious threat of immediate danger. The emergency order is granted on a case-by-case basis and is only valid until the next business day in most cases.
There are resources available for those survivors of abuse including WomensLaw.org which allows you to select your state to see how you can file a PFA even when the physical county courts are closed.
In addition to online resources, you can also reach out to an attorney as many have been and will continue to work remotely from anywhere in the country to ensure you and your children are safe from abuse during the spread of COVID-19.
My child and I are both survivors of domestic violence. Who can I turn to?
If you and your child are facing domestic violence at the hands of someone you live with, do not delay. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
If you are seeking legal representation, contact us. We have domestic violence attorneys across the nation ready to take your call.