What Happens When Home Isn't Safe?

Don't let an abusive partner use "social distancing" to control you.

Posted Mar 26, 2020

If your partner is violent, it probably happens when you're at home.

And now you're home. Home. More home. Home some more. 

About 1 in 3 women and 1 and 4 men in the U.S. have been subject to violence by a partner during their lives. Violence includes rape, physical force, or stalking, in the definition from the Centers for Disease Control. It doesn't include other kinds of partner abuse, like constant cruel criticism, threats of violence, or tight control of your contact with friends and family. 

Partner abuse is increasingly likely now. Bullies and abusers require a sense of control. The COVID-19 outbreak is a perfect example of a situation you can't control. When the rest of us feel anxious, we might eat more ice cream or play lots of video games. Abusers could focus on controlling or hurting their victims.

Is your partner insisting that you can't leave the house, ever? Only he can go to the supermarket or the park? Maybe you have heart disease or diabetes, so that puts you in a high-risk group. It might make sense. But if you slip out and your heart is pounding as you prepare to go back inside because of what your partner might say or do, you're too frightened. That's a big sign you need to protect yourself. You can't stay indoors every minute for a month. Are you afraid he won't let you back in? Or that he will treat you with contempt or refuse to speak with you for hours? Or slam you against the wall?

Women abuse men and people also abuse same-sex partners. It may be harder to admit, but it's not rare.   

Does your partner insist that you stay off the phone when you're getting calls from friends and family? Does he take away your cell or monitor who tries to reach you?  

Are you afraid that your children will see abuse, now that they're home with you 24/7?

Is your partner threatening that he'll kick you out of the house if you break his rules? Is he forcing you to wash your hands every hour even though you haven't gone anywhere?  

Domestic abuse services are committed to keeping their help available. You might think that you need to wait this out, but there's also a chance that it could get much worse. Fear is often accurate. If you are feeling especially frightened now, can you make that energy useful? 

It might be that your partner has stepped up to a dangerous line but not crossed it. If you're afraid he will, you might want to talk to experts before it happens. People are most likely to become abusers if they have low self-esteem, drink heavily or use illegal drugs. When they're depressed or unemployed, the risk of acting out goes up. If you know your partner witnessed domestic violence as a child or was abused by his parents, you may feel sympathy for him, but that also means he's more likely to abuse you.  

The National Domestic Violence hotline has trained advocates you can reach online or by phone. They can help you develop a plan (800-799-7233). 

Safe Horizon's hotline also has a chat service. 1 (800) 621-HOPE (4673). 

In New York, call the New York City Anti-Violence Project's 24/7 English/Spanish hotline at 212-714-1141. You can leave contact information at avp.org/get-help.  

Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

If you identify as LGBTQ,  you might prefer The Trevor Project's TrevorLifeline 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386.