Unfortunately, domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse, relationship abuse, and intimate partner violence), is a reality for many women and even some men within their relationships and marriages. It is also a common factor in divorce. As much of the United States has gone into lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, domestic abuse victims are being trapped in their homes with their abusers. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a rise in domestic abuse and domestic violence. If domestic abuse is a reality in your relationship, keep reading to learn what you can do and how you can prepare for a divorce from your abuser.
What Is Domestic Abuse?
A lot of people assume that domestic abuse requires physical violence or that it only happens to women. In fact, domestic abuse takes many different forms and it can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence is “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”
The NDVH additionally explains:
“Domestic violence includes behaviors that physical harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of domestic violence/abuse can be occurring at any one time within the same intimate relationship.”
Domestic Violence Levels Rise During the Coronavirus
It shouldn’t be surprising that rates of domestic violence have risen steeply during the coronavirus. As couples are forced to shelter in place together, the abuser has nowhere to go to blow off steam, and the victim cannot escape to work or other public places to avoid the abuse. On top of everything else, health worries, economic fears, and staggering job losses have dialed up the stress within many relationships.
It’s the perfect recipe for disaster.
According to an article in the New York Times, domestic abuse hotlines around the world have seen a growing number of calls, usually around 10 days after a lockdown is announced. In Spain, calls to a domestic violence hotline shot up 18% during that country’s lockdown. In France, domestic violence calls to the police increased 30%.
Here in the United States we have not been immune to this trend. According to The Economist, police data from five large cities (Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, and New Orleans) has shown a decrease of total crime by 25% while showing an increase in domestic violence by 5% while in lockdown. At the same time as it reported these numbers, The Economist cautioned its readers that “domestic violence is thought to be one of the most under-reported crimes. In lockdown, it may be even more so. Forced to stay with a violent family member or partner, it may be more difficult, if not dangerous, for victims to seek help when the abuser is always around.”
What Can You Do If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence or Domestic Abuse
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and feel your safety or the safety of others in your household is in jeopardy, remove yourself from the situation immediately. If your spouse has been threatening or violent toward you, your children, or anyone else in your household, call the police.
Though public services have been reduced during the pandemic, the police are still operating and will be able to assist you. While it is difficult to get complete information, it does seem that most (if not all) states consider the issuance of restraining orders to be an essential service. If possible, request a restraining order against your abuser to prevent them from returning to your home.
Not everyone in an abusive relationship feels comfortable calling the police. Maybe you aren’t sure where to go or what resources are available, especially now. If this is the case, we strongly encourage you to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
National Domestic Violence Hotline Website: https://www.thehotline.org/help/
(Live chat available)
National Domestic Violence Hotline Number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
How to Get Divorced During the Coronavirus
If you have endured an abusive marriage for too long, the government lockdown might have been the last straw that convinced you to get a divorce. Unfortunately, the courts are closed in many parts of the country, and it’s not clear when they will open back up. (It looks increasingly likely that different parts of the country will gradually open at different times.)
Other countries coming out of lockdown are already seeing a jump in divorce requests, so courts will likely be dealing with a slew of new divorce filings when they do re-open. That means you may need to be patient and to expect a slower-than-average divorce process.
Just because you can’t file for divorce doesn’t mean you can’t begin preparing for it. In fact, you should start preparing for your divorce. Here’s how:
Step One: Your first and most important priority is to protect yourself and your children. If you need to leave the home, do so as quickly and safely as you can.
Step Two: Research divorce attorneys in your area. A local divorce attorney can give you personalized advice and guide you to prepare for your divorce.
Step Three: Start gathering information. You’re going to need a lot of different documents as you begin to devise your settlement strategy. Use The Second Saturday Divorce Document Checklist to help.
Step Four: Take a look at our Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing for Divorce, which will help you do everything else to put yourself in the best position once the lockdown lifts and the courts reopen.
Step Five: Attend a Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area. Currently, many of our Workshop Leaders are hosting online workshops. As soon as it is safe to do so, our Leaders will begin hosting in-person workshops again. Sign up for our next Workshop today.