COVID-19 is now a global pandemic and life in America—and in countries all around the world—is changing drastically.
The CDC’S recommendations to practice frequent hand hygiene using soap or an alcohol-based hand rub, social distancing, and self-isolation, are being shared on every news outlet and throughout social media. In an effort to dramatically reduce the spread and mortality rate of this disease, public schools have been temporarily closed, and many businesses are closed or have advised employees to work from home if possible. In some countries there have even been mandatory lockdowns and many of us are preparing ourselves for the possibility that we too will be subject to a mandatory lockdown.
Unfortunately, for people who are experiencing domestic violence, mandatory lockdowns mean that they are trapped inside their home with their abuser, and isolated from people and resources who can offer help or support, thereby increasing their risk of harm. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior perpetrated to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner, and an abuser can use a national health concern to exert power over their victim. In the case of COVID-19, where we’re all being asked to spend more time at home in an effort to curb the spread of the disease, acts of violence may increase when a survivor and abuser are confined to the same location for extended periods of time. The abuser may withhold information necessary to improve safety, or the abuser may withhold soap and sanitizing products, preventing the survivor from practicing recommended hygiene practices.
The impact on survivors does not end there. Survivors may be afraid to enter a shelter due to concerns of being among a large group of people, they may be impacted by travel restrictions that prevent the execution of their safety plan, and programs usually available to survivors may be forced to stop offering services due to closures or being at full capacity.
Immigrant victims of domestic violence are often more vulnerable because their immigration status causes more obstacles towards obtaining resources and leaving an abusive partner. Many immigrant victims of domestic violence are dependent on their abuser for legal immigration status, and will not seek help from law enforcement, or seek medical treatment, for fear of being deported or detained. Furthermore, many are not aware, or do not understand, that U.S. laws would protect them from their abuser regardless of their immigration status, and that there are resources available to them for relief and support, including immigration protections. Immigrant victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes such as human trafficking, may qualify for immigration relief. Immigration relief options encourage victims to report crimes and work with law enforcement, and serve as a tool for law enforcement to help eliminate human trafficking and fight crime in local communities.
It is important that survivors of domestic violence create a safety plan, or alter one they have in place to help them through this time. As much as possible, survivors should maintain their routines and reach out to friends and family through digital means. Those who need additional support should reach out their state and local domestic violence hotlines for services available to them.
To talk with the Law Office of S.A. Peterkin about immigration options call us at 321-325-1125.