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Abuse Victims Face Increased Risk Amid the Global Pandemic

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The global coronavirus pandemic is changing life and society as we know it. Business and school closures, job layoffs, and mandatory lockdowns are just a few of the implications of this viral contagion that leave individuals who are already vulnerable at an even greater risk of suffering. As the pandemic rages on, child welfare experts and advocates have become increasingly worried that child abuse and domestic violence will rise while people are quarantined at home. 

Implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, mandatory stay-home orders enforced in multiple states across the U.S. are forcing abuse victims to be trapped inside with their abusers. As daycares, schools, and afterschool programs are shut down for the foreseeable future, mandated reporters, like teachers and coaches, are distanced from potential child abuse victims and incapable of filing a report and stopping the abuse. Statistics show that about 30% of sexually abused children are abused by family members, and the younger the child is, the higher the likelihood the abuser is a member of the family. Children isolated in abusive households are then left with nowhere to turn. 

Abuse and violence could also be triggered by the financial pressure experienced by a partner or caregiver who lost a job due to the pandemic. The inability to pay bills or put food on the table can drastically heighten anxiety and stress in a household with a history of violence. A lack of income can also prevent children, young adults, and working people living in disadvantaged environments from obtaining the technology and equipment they need to effectively take online classes or work remotely. 

This same technology could double as the missing link that many abuse victims need to get help from the outside world, though this method is also considered a risk. Abusers strive to maintain power and control over their victims, which includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation.

When it comes to technology, this also includes knowing the victims’ passwords and having access to a variety of their accounts. According to The Wire, domestic violence advocates “are working to out-innovate abusers and turn smartphones and laptops from risk to resource.” 

While quarantined, abuse victims are encouraged to develop codewords with friends and family, so all parties are informed when help is needed without notifying the abuser. Victims should also know that, while many nonprofits and domestic violence shelters are closed during the pandemic, emergency hotlines like the National Hotline to End Domestic Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline are still available. 

State governments also continue to offer resources and support to victims of abuse. Many court systems are operating on limited hours but still remain open, and others, like New York City’s Family Court, are transitioning to phone and video conferencing or are able to host virtual courtrooms. Various local and national legal organizations also provide free consultations and offer support right online. 

Many organizations in Kentucky are also still operating during this uncertain time. The Kentucky Organization of Sexual Assault Programs are adapting under these circumstances and continuing to offer their support and services for victims of domestic violence and abuse. Victims and survivors in crisis are also encouraged to call 1 (800) 656-4673 to get in contact with a Kentucky-based rape crisis center, or view this map to locate the support center closest to you. 
 

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