As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, to protect ourselves and our communities, we are required to stay home. Unfortunately, for those in our community experiencing domestic violence and abuse, home may not be a safe place to be. Given the economic devastation resulting from COVID-19, many families now find themselves in a chronic state of uncertainty and panic and lack the community resources and support systems to cope with their emotional distress. Such conditions may stimulate violence in families where it did not exist before and worsen situations in homes where mistreatment and violence has already been a problem.
Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19. High stress levels among parents is often a major predictor of abuse and neglect to children. Stressed parents may be more likely to respond to their children’s anxious behaviors or demands in aggressive or abusive ways. The support systems that many at-risk parents rely on, such as extended family, childcare and schools, and religious groups, are no longer available in many areas due to the stay-at-home orders.
Child protection agencies are experiencing stretched resources with fewer employees available, making them unable to properly follow up on reports of abuse, and are unable to properly complete an investigation in areas under strict stay-at-home orders. Since children are not going to school, teachers and staff are unable to witness the signs of abuse and report to the proper authorities. Also, many at-risk families may not have access to the technology children needed to stay connected with friends and extended family.
We must act to alert victims of domestic violence and abuse that there is help available. During this time, we must also ensure that healthcare practitioners are screening patients for intimate partner violence and child abuse. To help families and communities address intimate partner violence and child abuse health concerns, please see the resources below:
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (800) 252-5400
National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233
Safe Haven Tarrant County (877) 701-7233
The Women’s Center (817) 927-2737