Mental Health, Domestic Violence, & COVID: A Tumultuous Trio

“Women who have experienced domestic violence or abuse are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing a range of mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.” This reality is why the exit door of a domestic abuse situation isn’t the end of the healing process; it’s the start. 

Domestic abuse survivors include both men and women, and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is another phrase used to refer to harm– physical, sexual, or psychological– experienced due to a current or former partner’s actions. Although IPV survivors are prone to mental health conditions, as the previous paragraph mentioned, “lack of universal screening, stigma, and fear of retaliation by intimate partners may prevent survivors of IPV from disclosing their situations to mental health providers.” IPV survivors who do not seek help for mental health conditions risk massively stalling the healing process.

Mental & Physical Well-Being Go Hand-In-Hand

One doesn’t simply wake up from domestic abuse or mental health conditions healed. No, they do not. Survivors need to look toward counselors specialized in domestic abuse and toward places like Truehope that devote themselves to mental and physical well-being.

If you’re fortunate enough to be unconvinced that domestic violence is present enough to warrant this article, consider a few harrowing statistics from Huffington Post, December 2017:

  • 18,500,000- “The number of mental health care visits due to intimate partner violence every year.”
  • “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766.”
  • 3- “The number of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.”
  • 38,028,000- “The number of women who have experienced physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.”
  • 1 in 4- “The number of women who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.”
  • 1 in7- “The number of men who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.”
  • “A woman is beaten every 9 seconds in the U.S.”
  • 81- “The percentage of women who are stalked by a current or former male partner who are also physically abused by that partner.”
  • 98- “The percentage of financial abuse that occurs in all domestic violence cases.” 
    • “The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship is because the abuser controls their money supply, leaving them with no financial resources to break free.”
  • “Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families.”
  • 10,000,000- “The number of children exposed to domestic violence every year.”

The Increase of Intimate Terrorism 

If you put your rose-colored glasses on and think, “surely, those statistics improved since their unveiling in 2017,” one look at the April 2020 New York Times article entitled A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Worldwide sends your glasses crashing to the floor. The piece not only lists spikes in domestic violence across the globe; it also states that many experts prefer the phrase intimate terrorism over domestic violence.

Intimate terrorism— the more you let these two words roll around in your mind and heart, the more repulsion and feelings of devastation it triggers. 

A common assumption is that an abusive relationship involves physical violence. But as the New York Times points out, a relationship can be abusive with or without physical violence. Non-physical domestic violence can include “… isolation from friends, family and employment; constant surveillance; strict, detailed rules for behavior; and restrictions on access to such basic necessities as food, clothing, and sanitary facilities. Home isolation, however vital to the fight against the [COVID-19] pandemic, is giving still more power to the abuser.” Between the physical and non-physical domestic violence experienced by survivors, it’s abundantly clear why mental health conditions find a home within domestic abuse survivors and that they do so aggressively.

Even if those rose-colored glasses remained in one piece when they hit the floor, you could not deny this truth: The COVID-19 pandemic increased anxiety, stress, and depression for the world as a whole, and when those mental health conditions increase, domestic abuse rises too. And during the pandemic, domestic abuse victims were unable to flee and seek help due to the number of domestic abuse support places shut down and restricted by the pandemic.

Advice for Domestic Abuse Survivors

Johns Hopkins Medicine offers the following advice for domestic abuse survivors:

  1. Find a place you can retreat to safely. Avoid the bathroom or kitchen.
  2. Enlist support from a trusted friend or family member you can call.
    • If necessary, use a codeword or phrase to indicate you need help.
  3. Memorize phone numbers of people and agencies you might need to call in an emergency.
  4. Make sure you can easily access:
    • Cash
    • Identification (Social Security card and driver’s license)
    • Birth and marriage certificates
    • Credit cards, safety deposit keys, and bank information
    • Health insurance information
    • Any documentation, photos, medical or police reports relating to previous episodes of abuse
  5. Be aware of MyPlan, “an app for anyone having issues in a relationship, COVID-19 related or not.”

In addition to the above advice, look toward counselors specialized in helping domestic abuse survivors. Also, seek out places, like Truehope, that dedicate themselves to mental and physical well-being. Truehope is home to the most-studied micronutrient in the world, EMPowerplus Advanced, which can reduce symptoms related to anxiety, panic, and depression, to name a few.

Take the time to heal– mentally, emotionally, and physically.

The Chains of Domestic Violence Rattle Long After the Attack(s)

Domestic abuse can be difficult for a victim to recognize and acknowledge, especially if it’s not physical. And even when the victim is ready to leave an abusive relationship, finances, heartstrings, and fear can be weightier than the abuse itself. 

October is the official month a spotlight shines upon the devastating domestic abuse statistics and available hotlines and support. Still, every month is an opportunity to help yourself and others out of toxic and life-threatening relationships. Domestic violence is not a silent killer; its hit is heard and felt as loud as a volcanic eruption. From the person receiving the abuse to the children watching from the sidelines to family and friends who don’t know how to help, the tentacles of abuse are far-reaching– and so, too, are the mental health conditions that the abuse triggers and intensifies. 

Remember: No excuse, not even a global pandemic, justifies violence.

Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233