“Survivors haven’t felt safe to reach out because they’ve been in such close proximity to their abusers,” the organization’s communications director, Christina So, told TODAY Parents.
But now that people are emerging from lockdown, the phones are starting to ring.
“We expect to see an unprecedented number of survivors reporting abuse in the coming months,” So said. "We know that any external factors, such as isolation and financial strain, can create circumstances where a survivor's safety is further compromised."
Katherine Williams, a licensed clinical social worker at the Sanctuary for Families domestic violence shelter in New York, said she's also been seeing an uptick in incidents.
"The coronavirus has created a tinderbox for domestic violence," Williams told TODAY Parents.
Since March 16, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has received 5,300 calls from people reporting COVID-19 as part of their experience. (It has received 92,522 calls, chats and texts in total since March 16.)
“We’ve heard about abusers withholding necessary items like sanitizer and disinfectant,” So said. “Abusers are also sharing misinformation about the pandemic to frighten the survivor and prevent them from seeking medical attention.”
Download the TODAY app for the latest coverage on the coronavirus outbreak.
With travel restrictions in place, many victims feel trapped with nowhere to go.
“They are like, ‘Normally, I’d go to a friend's house or my parents’ house, but now I can’t,” So explained. “It’s definitely a tough moment for survivors.”
But you can help.
“If you’re suspecting abuse, but you’re not sure, you can always reach out to us, and we’ll talk you through it," So said. “You want to be as supportive as possible without imposing. See if you can be a part of their safety plan, see if you can schedule a regular phone call. You want to help them combat the sense of helplessness by cultivating hope."
Whether you are in an abusive relationship, or you're seeking help for a loved one, here are some judgment-free resources:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
- Childhelp National Abuse Hotline
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline