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Q: What can I do to protect myself from domestic violence during the pandemic?

There’s strong evidence that domestic violence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation, financial pressure, and the stress of having children at home can contribute to this problem. People in abusive relationships may have more difficulty getting away from their abuser due to these challenges and public health measures that encourage sheltering in place. Still, there are resources available in our community to help.

If you’re experiencing domestic violence or are concerned about the potential for abuse in your household, first and foremost, you should know that it’s not your fault. No one ever deserves abuse or causes someone to abuse them.

There are some clear warning signs of abusive tendencies. Abuse is often exhibited by controlling behaviors*. If someone you live with is being physically, verbally or emotionally hurtful; regularly demonstrating explosive anger or threatening behaviors; or harming pets and animals, start safety planning. Here are some important steps you can take to protect yourself and your children:

  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Let them know what's going on and call them when you need help or support. Consider agreeing on a codeword or phrase that you can use to indicate that you need immediate help.
  • Secure quick access to cash and important documents such as identification, birth and marriage certificates, health insurance information, and any medical records, police records, photos, or documentation of previous episodes of abuse. Debit/credit card and bank information are important to have on hand as well.
  • Have an overnight bag with extra clothes for you and your children, along with a spare set of keys. Make sure these are hidden somewhere that’s easy for you to get to.
  • Consider joining a support group – the Family Peace Center at Parents and Children Together (PACT) offers an array of services for you and your family. They have support groups for survivors and anger control classes for those who need to change abusive behavior. They also have support groups for children and teenagers. Anyone can attend, and there’s financial help available to attend classes free of charge.
  • If you’re in physical danger, call the police (911), tell the dispatcher that your life is in danger and that you need help immediately. Often in these cases, a 48-hour cooling-off period will be initiated by police. This means the abusive party must leave the home for 48 hours or possibly longer. This gives you time to regroup and decide on your next steps such as getting a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

It can be very hard to leave an abusive situation, and it’s very possible that the abusive and controlling behaviors of you partner may intensify as you decide to leave. Help is available. Seeking this support can lead to an emotionally safe and fulfilling partnership.*

Other resources on Maui include Women Helping Women’s 24-hour crisis hotline at 808-579-9581. They also provide temporary shelter and assistance with obtaining TROs. The Family Peace Center at 808- 243-7001 assists with TROs, provides education classes, and has programs for adolescents and children who experience or have witnessed domestic violence. You can get more information on their websites or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 (SAFE). You can also find information and help online at thehotline.org or loveisrespect.org for teens. Should you find yourself experiencing overwhelming feelings of suicide or despair, you can also reach out to the Access Line at 1-800-753-6879.

Click diagrams below to enlarge.

Power and Control Wheel Equality Wheel

Giulietta C. Swenson, PsyD

Behavioral health

Maui Memorial Medical Center
221 Mahalani Street
Wailuku, HI 96793