Domestic violence exacerbated by COVID
Megan Plete Postol
Domestic violence incidents are on the rise during the pandemic.
Locally, the YWCA reports a 30% increase in demand for services, and projected a 50% increase by the end of 2020.
“Abusers like to isolate and control their victims, and with families in lockdown, the pandemic created a perfect opportunity to achieve that goal,” YWCA Mohawk Valley Chief Executive Officer Dianne Stancato said. “In addition, because they were unable to leave their homes where they were often living with their abusers, victims did not have access to domestic violence services or their support systems, such as co-workers, family, friends, and possibly even their medical health professionals. With the added tensions of job insecurity or loss, housing or food insecurities and more, the abuse could be exacerbated by stress from these factors and fear.”
The YWCA Mohawk Valley has worked ceaselessly to care for those affected by domestic violence in the region, she noted.
“I am proud to say are serving clients throughout this pandemic,” Stancato said. “Our hotlines and advocacy are available 24/7 and our emergency shelters are open. Our therapists are ‘seeing’ clients on videoconference, our support groups are meeting virtually, and victims can reach us through our new text and web chat services as well. Our advocates continue to work within the court systems. Our staff at the Herkimer County Child Advocacy Center is available for cases, as well as those at the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center. This has been a full-on team effort to serve the community.”
She and her staff have developed new routes of communication and connection with the clients they serve.
“The only thing that has changed is delivery: We meet with clients via video, text, and web chat options as often as possible, meeting in-person on occasion when necessary,” Stancato said. “We are still working to find creative ways to deliver our emergency services. Thinking outside the box, we launched our free and confidential text and web chat services. We’ve partnered with other agencies to continue advocacy services, even when hospital and law enforcement requests for assistance increased throughout quarantine.”
Domestic violence is a serious crime that can include physical and emotional abuse. Stancato has suggestions about how to support the YWCA in a meaningful way.
“We have so many options to support our efforts on our website, ywcamv.org, including asking for financial support,” she said. “We are always grateful for our donors and supporters as they make this work possible. Also, please write your senator and Congressmen or woman and demand they reauthorize VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act. Women need the protections of VAWA now more than ever before.”
Red flags waving
There are many red flags and warning signs of domestic violence. They can include:
— Controlling behaviors such as not allowing the victim to talk to friends or relatives, go to an appointment, have a conversation on the phone, etc.)
— Verbal abuse and name calling; embarrassing, demeaning and humiliating their victims in private and in public
— Blaming the victim for the abuse (“If you didn’t provoke me, I wouldn’t have”)
— Controlling the finances
— Possessiveness, extreme jealousy
— Unpredictability, bad temper
— Cruelty to pets/animals
— Controlling what the victim wears
— Sabotaging or blocking the victim to go to school or work
— Sabotaging or blocking the victim from getting health care, medical attention or birth control
— Extreme manipulation
— Makes the victim ask for permission to see family and friends
— Tries to isolate the victim and make the victim have to only rely on them for finance and emotional support
— Forces sex
— Past history of domestic violence and violent crimes
— Threats of harm to family members and friends and the victim
— Constantly having to know where the victim is at all times