During the COVID-19 pandemic incidents of domestic violence have increased as people are quarantining and spending more time at home to mitigate the spread of the virus. For people who are experiencing domestic violence, also known as intimate partner abuse, this scenario can worsen already toxic or abusive situations. There are many types of intimate partner abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional, technological and financial.
Warning signs of domestic violence
If someone you know is experiencing abusive behaviors within their relationship, they may:
- Seem afraid of their partner or anxious to please them
- Agree with everything their partner says
- Report to their partner about where they are, what they’re doing or who they’re with
- Talk about their partner’s temper or jealousy
- Have frequent injuries or “accidents”
- Frequently miss work, school or social occasions without a clear reason
- Wear clothing that does not fit the season, such as long sleeves in summer to cover bruises or marks
- Experience personality changes, like low self-esteem in someone who used to be confident, or new depression or anxiety
- Suddenly or slowly pull away from close relationships with friends and family or cherished hobbies
- Seek their partner’s approval for activities, friendships, purchases or plans
Learn more about the warning signs of intimate partner abuse.
How to help if you suspect someone is being abused
Sometimes a friend or family member noticing that something is off is the first step to getting help. However, people experiencing intimate partner abuse may not respond the way we expect due to their background, identity, personality or the nature of their relationship and what is happening within it. Survivors range from being frightened for their life to not believing there is a problem at all. If you choose to address your concerns, remember the following:
- Make sure it’s safe to talk. Choose a time and place that is safe and confidential to talk. Be specific about what is concerning you. For example, “I am wondering if someone may be hurting you” can be more helpful in starting a conversation than something more generic like, “Is everything okay?”
- Listen carefully and show you care. Take the situation seriously, and refrain from minimizing acts of abuse or blaming them for the abuse they’ve endured. Remember that it can be difficult for people to recognize and leave abusive situations.
- Don’t label their experience. If someone describes a situation that sounds like abuse to you, but they don’t use the word “abuse”, refrain from labeling it as such. Instead, mirror their language.
- Let them know you support them. Encourage them to build a support network by talking to friends, family members, a support group, hotline or a confidential advocate on campus. People experiencing intimate partner abuse are often socially isolated due to the dynamics of their relationships and COVID-19 regulations.
- Offer help. Sometimes survivors may choose to stay with their abuser for a number of reasons. Avoid telling them what to do, judging them or pressuring them to leave. Instead, offer to help them in whatever way they need or want, and respect their choices. Remember that you can always refer them to confidential resources for support and information.
- Keep them safe. If you are worried about talking openly and safely about what is happening, it can be helpful to come up with a code word. If things escalate or the person is in danger, they can text or call you and say something like, “We’re having CORN for dinner tonight.” Code words can help clue someone in and get them to call for help or carry out a safety plan without alerting the abuser.
- Support yourself. Caring for someone who is experiencing relationship abuse can be a lot to carry. If you are helping someone with an abusive partner, there are resources available for you, whether you’re a friend, family member or peer.
Domestic violence resources
Remember that help is always available, even in a pandemic. The following resources are available to students, staff and faculty experiencing domestic violence/intimate partner abuse.
- The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short term counseling services to University of Colorado Boulder undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event, including intimate partner abuse. Call 303-492-8855 to connect with an OVA advocate counselor. The OVA office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They also offer after-hours support. You can also reach out to OVA for a free consultation through their e-Ask an Advocate program.
- The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) helps implement and enforce university policies around sexual misconduct, intimate partner abuse and stalking, among other unwelcome behaviors. If you or someone you know in the CU community has been impacted, reports can be filed online. Individuals can also report something anonymously to OIEC.
- Don’t Ignore It is an online resource to explore your options for seeking confidential support, reporting concerns and learning skills for helping others. If something seems off, it probably is – don’t ignore it.
- The SafeHouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) is a local resource with a 24/7 crisis line (303-444-2424) and shelter.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a free and confidential service that provides a crisis hotline (1-800-799-7233) and other services to help you create a safety plan, connect with local resources, find support and more.
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