By Jacqueline Woods, LCSW, GRACE Program Social Worker
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all live and work, and many of us are spending most, if not all, of our time at home with our families. This is creating new sources of stress in addition to the stressors people were dealing with before COVID-19.
With businesses forced to close or decrease staff, there is record high unemployment. While the state and federal government are working to assist people and businesses in this situation, it is often not enough, and the stress of applying for unemployment and waiting for payments can cause arguments and lead to poor sleep and lack of self-care. For some, this stress can cause there to be violence in the home where there wasn’t before. For those families already experiencing abuse, this added stress is likely to intensify it.
Intimate Partner Violence
According to the CDC, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is something that affects millions of people in the United States. They define IPV as “abuse or aggression that occurs in a close relationship.” One in three women and one in four men have experienced IPV in their lifetime. Low income, unemployment, and isolation from other people are among the risk factors for this type of abuse.
For those already experiencing violence in the home, there are now more barriers to getting help, such as community agencies not working at full capacity, or inability to stay with a relative or friend due to social distancing. Also, the perpetrator may have been going to work or out socially in the past and is now at home, where abuse occurs. Victims of abuse may have less freedom than before, due to stay-at-home orders.
Among the protective factors for IPV are high friendship quality and social support. Having others to talk to, even by phone or other device, is very important in staying safe from IPV, although it can present its own dangers, such as the perpetrator becoming angry about calls and messages.
Parental stress level is a major predictor of abuse and neglect of children, and now with almost all of the community resources such as schools, churches, and camps closed due to the pandemic, parents are left without a break. Social resources such as friends, neighbors, and family members are not available as well, due to stay at home orders and social distancing,
The American Psychological Association offers some suggestions on how to prevent “lashing out” on your children when everything becomes too much. They emphasize taking care of your own needs, such as nutrition, sleep, and hygiene, as well as taking breaks from parenting, so that you can better care for your children. It’s also important to give yourself a break, and know that you are doing the best you can in a very difficult time.
If you are in an emergency situation, call 911. If you are affected by abuse and need support, you can visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. You can also reach out to one of Woman’s Hospital’s social workers for support and resources by calling 225-924-8456.
To report child abuse or neglect
Call 1-855-452-4537 24 hours/day