Mental health experts remind us that a crisis brings out the worst in abusers.
In fact, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York recently tweeted, “There has been an uptick in domestic violence incidents. We want you to know — if you are in a dangerous situation, New York will help you find a safe shelter. You are not trapped just because of Coronavirus.”
Why does domestic violence increase during a crisis? Because abusers are afraid of their lack of control.
This Covid-19 pandemic has stolen control of their stock portfolios, the security of their jobs and possibly — their physical health.
So they strike out at the nearest person(s) — those they are quarantined with — the wife and kids.
April is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is not a comfortable blog subject for many people. Certainly, it isn’t comfortable for the women who are experiencing it.
But cudos to Governor Cuomo for even mentioning it when he is so busy dealing with the virus in his state.
All of us need to be aware that domestic violence is happening all around us, to families we would never imagine having such a problem.
Women and children live in fear daily and in the insecurity of not knowing which person will walk in the door — the man who appears in public as a nice guy or the monster hidden within.
To be clear, domestic violence begins as some sort of abusive control. Some women aren’t even aware their daily challenge is actually abuse. It may look like the following:
- Ridicule / Negative comparisons to other women
- Teasing and name-calling / Jokes at her expense
- The Silent treatment
- Destroying objects
- Withholding approval or affection
- Emotional detachment
- Forceful sexual advances / Rape
- Making her ask or beg for money / Snooping in her mail or purse
- Using the Bible or religious traditions to put down women
The above bullets are just some of the ways abuse may manifest. If left unchecked, it can quickly escalate and become more of a violent behavior. Any type of physical assault can be abusive, even excessive tickling or pinching.
One of the most insidious behaviors is The Gaslight scenario. He blames the woman when anything goes wrong. Anger escalates, then he acts like the victim. In his warped mind, it is NEVER his fault. This is typical behavior for narcissists.
After weeks and months of such behavior, she begins to feel as if she is the crazy one. She constantly second guesses herself, and the children grow up without any sense of emotional security.
So what can we do about this horrid situation?
Recognize that at least one out of every four women is being abused — right now. This includes women from every demographic, every financial situation and in every house of worship.
We cannot ignore the problem and we cannot abandon these women and their children to such a destructive life.
One of the best online resources is the website: leslievernick.com. Leslie is a licensed clinical social worker and a relationship coach. One of her books, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship is packed with advice and encouragement to help women recognize the abuse they’re living with.
Throughout the years, I have worked with multiple women in all levels of abusive relationships. These women feel alone and often abandoned by those who could help.
But even more insidious are the women who have been “taught” that abuse is okay, their role to play in a relationship.
Why are these women trapped?
- They are waiting for God to release them.
- They know the church will ostracize and isolate them because they have observed what happens to single moms in the church.
- They have been indoctrinated into the “submit above all else” and the “a quiet woman will win her husband” themes.
- They are afraid to hurt their children, not realizing how their children are already hurting. The children will often recognize the abuse before their mother does.
- Single moms are the #1 poverty level in every country of the world. Women support their husbands by either working in the home and/or outside the home. Everything has gone into the joint checking account. If they leave, they will have no financial security and no options.
So what can we do to help the abused women around us?
Stop ignoring the problem. It’s in your family, in your workplace and in your church.
Support the organizations that help women escape. In the Kansas City area, we have Safe Home, New House and The Single Mom KC.
Report any abuse that you observe.
Listen carefully and respond immediately to any woman who comes to you for help.
Help women know they are not invisible. They do not have to live in this type of entrapment.
And especially now — during this pandemic — be alert for the other pandemic happening around you: the tragedy of domestic abuse.
©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved.
No Visible Scars tells the story of a woman caught in abuse and her struggle to find the boundaries that will save her.
Thank you for sharing this very serious problem today! More needs to be said about it. I’ve been reading terrible statistics during this period.
Thanks for the comment, Amy. Yes, it’s a dangerous time for many.
Thank you, Rebecca. This is an excellent post! Hope you are well! We have a distant picnic planned with the Garlows on Saturday 🙂 Katherine
Thanks, Katherine – great to hear from you. Virtual hugs !
So sad. I’m reminded of a client I once had. Her boyfriend was so jealous that he insisted on accompanying her to pick up what was supposed to be his surprise wedding present (a drawing of his favorite horse). I said to him, “Well you blew your surprise, didn’t you?” He turned away without answering me. I always wondered what happened to their relationship.
I can guess what happened. Yes, the numbers and the lives affected are so incredibly sad. Thanks for the comment.