As the nation addresses the spread of COVID-19, Americans are compelled to remain in their homes, for their safety and that of their community. However, for victims and survivors of domestic violence – including children exposed to it – staying home may not be a safe option. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women and about one in seven men in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
"This topic is relevant to students, employees and clinicians alike," says Russell Spieth, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and chair of NEOMED’s Mental Health Committee, which includes faculty, staff and student members. Dr. Spieth has worked with domestic violence-involved patients for more than 15 years in New York City and Cleveland.
"Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that intimate partner violence is associated with an increased risk of injury and death. Domestic violence can lead to adverse health and mental health outcomes, including a higher risk of chronic disease, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and risky sexual and substance use behaviors.”
Dr. Spieth notes that experts now worry that rates of domestic violence – also called intimate partner violence – could increase significantly during this period of quarantine, since research suggests that stress and social isolation can heighten the risk of domestic violence. Experts encourage health care and social service providers to be prepared for an increase in demand for domestic violence care. Further, the country may not fully appreciate the effects of the pandemic for months or years to come, says Dr. Spieth.
Strategies for Safety
Here’s advice from the CDC: When doing so is generally safe, victims and survivors of ongoing domestic violence are encouraged to:
- Engage with supportive, nonjudgmental and compassionate people.
- Secure a restraining or protective order if necessary, which prohibits an individual from harassing, threatening, approaching, accosting, or even contacting you.
- Seek help from a health care and/or social service provider.
- Engage the services of centers or shelters for domestic violence survivors (see below)
The Ohio Domestic Violence Network is a resource recommended by Jessica Zavala, a member of the Mental Health Committee and manager of the Ohio Program for Campus Safety, a statewide program headquartered at NEOMED. Zavala also recommends Information on COVID-19 for Survivors, Communities and DV/SA Programs.
Additional COVID-19 resources related to suicide prevention and mental health can be found at Ohio Program for Campus Safety & Mental Health.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Resources
Domestic Violence Shelters and Resource Centers in Portage, Summit and Stark counties
Safer Futures Program
Domestic Violence Project Inc.
The 24-hour hotline numbers are 330.673.2500 and 330.296.2100
Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit County
Sexual Assault Resources
RAINN Hotline (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)
TownHall II HelpLine