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Domestic Violence amidst a Pandemic: It includes “non-violent” behaviors too.

Counseling & Coaching0 comments

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When you ask people to describe what domestic violence is, most will say it involves physical violence of some sort (i.e. hitting, slapping, kicking, shoving).  But what most people don’t realize (including therapists), is there’s a number of other areas that are included in domestic violence also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), where the victim is never touched.

Now more than ever, as we are in the midst of a pandemic, the public needs to be aware of what domestic violence is as rates have surged due to stay at home protocols that limit a victim from accessing shelters and escaping an abusive home and relationship.

According to the NCBI, domestic violence reports have dramatically increased during the Covid-19 pandemic with countries such as France indicating a 30% increase, Brazil up 40-50%, with China noting DV reports have tripled compared to a similar time frame prior to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Here in the United States, reports have surfaced with abusers keeping their victims in fear by preventing them from washing their hands as a means to increase their fears of contracting the virus and threatening them from accessing medical treatment if they were to contract the virus.

In understanding DV, we should keep in mind that domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner (past or present). Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.

Unfortunately, in our society and the media coverage surrounding domestic violence, it seems only horrendous acts of physical violence get any publicity, thus many citizens remain ignorant of how DV can still occur without the perpetrator laying any hands on the victim.  DV of this sort where there are no visible accounts of physical violence occurs periodically in my work as a therapist in the realm of domestic violence evaluations and parenting evaluations for court-ordered, high conflict family law cases).

What’s essential for all parties is the recognition and awareness of the full breadth of domestic violence.  Below are some questions that can help you or someone you know gauge whether they’re a victim or perpetrator of intimate partner violence.

DV questions

  • Has your partner used force against you? (Have you….against your partner?)
  • Has your partner pushed, shoved, grabbed, shaken you? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner restrained you, block your way, pinned you down? (Have you … against your partner?
  • Has your partner hit you? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner choked you? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner assaulted you physically in any other way? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner physically forced you to have sex in a way or time you did not want (i.e. unsafe sex, not allowing for birth control, etc.)?  (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner threatened to use violence(or has used violence) against the children, family, others or self? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner attacked property or pets? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner stalked harassed or intimidated you in any other way? How does your partner frighten you? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner humiliated you?  In what ways has your partner emotionally hurt you, called you names, or put-downs does your partner use against you?(Have you … against your partner?)
  • Does your partner attempt to isolate you (i.e. isolation from friends, family, social support)? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Attempt to control your time and/or activities (jobs, schooling, hobbies, etc.)? (Have you…against your partner?)
  • Does your partner follow you, listen to phone calls, or open mail? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner tried to control you through money, if so how? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Does your partner use the children against you, if so how? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner taken or threatened to take them, or interfered with your care of the children? (Have you … against your partner?)
  • Has your partner ever threatened to report you to CPS? (Have you … against your partner?)

If any of these apply to you as a victim, you may consider seeing a therapist or seeking more information through local resources devoted to domestic violence prevention (i.e. local law enforcement task force, social service clinics, DV shelter, etc.)

If you feel you may be a perpetrator, there are resources devoted to helping you gain insight into your behaviors with the goal of change.  The work in our therapeutic field is never to blame or shame anyone for their situation but to offer hope and healing, especially when children are involved as their emotional and psychological health must be protected as well.

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