Crisis in Isolation: Deescalating Domestic Violence

And just like that, most of us have shifted to a “work from home” self-quarantine society. This is unprecedented territory for many of us.

Some of us may handle this shift differently than others. Introverts who typically revel in quiet isolation will be content, right in their element.  Although other introverts, like my lovely wife, may now be trapped in a house full of family members 24/7. Extroverts may struggle without the daily social interactions which they thrive on.  Sports fans are grieving and have few positive outlets left to engage in. Many spouses will be together more than they have been since honeymoon days. We parents are now dealing with stir crazy kids full time.  And we’re all just trying to figure out how to live, learn, and work in a virtual world while living in our real world at home.

We may feel off kilter because of unfamiliar routines, our work life melding into our home life, and either a great increase or decrease of alone time (depending on your situation). All the while, uncertainty about our risk of illness looms over us. And unexpected financial situations from drastic job changes or unemployment can further heighten our stress and anxiety.  As these negative emotions increase, our defenses naturally go up. We can find ourselves more on edge and short of patience. This can add up to a large ticking time bomb just waiting for a spark.

So what can we do to put out the fuse?  If we feel ourselves losing control, or if a loved one is emotionally raw, what can we do?  In more mild situations, a great first step is to contact a local therapist for help.  They have insightful techniques to help us view our situation in healthy ways.

The Reno Gazette Journal[i] recently wrote an article in which they quoted a marriage and family counselor out of Valdeston, Georgia, Mark Webb. His advice during this time is threefold:

  1. Communication
  2. Patience
  3. Focusing on the long term

And I would add a fourth one:

  • Hope.

Effective communication begins with active listening (listening to understand rather than listening to respond). Focusing on connection can unite us and draw us together. We can love with our hearts, think with our brains, and hope with our souls.

Unfortunately, many situations escalate rapidly. Before the world started self-isolating, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men had at some point been victims of violence by an intimate partner. Incidents of domestic violence are already increasing with so many of us sheltering in place. During this pandemic we may feel as if we are losing control, and we will search for ways to cope. Most will seek healthy activities like exercise, cleaning, writing, or art, but some will force their control on those around them in unhealthy or hostile ways.  If a situation at home becomes unsafe; if you fear for your emotional or physical safety, I plead with you to seek help from any of these resources below.

Please call 911 if you’re in immediate danger.

Nevada 211 dial “211” or text zip code to: 898211

Crisis Support Services of Nevada 1-800-273-8255 or text to: 839863

NAMI Nevada crisis line: 1-775-470-5600

National Domestic Violence hotline 1-800-799-7233

Crisis Text Line text to: 741741

House of Ruth Maryland

Safe Horizons 1-800-621-4673

Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-8255[ii]

If you feel on edge, and unable to control your own anger or actions, please seek help from the resources above immediately, before you put yourself or others in danger. You can overcome this tumultuous time! You can protect those you love by seeking help. However, even if you’ve already hurt someone you love, it’s not too late. There is still help out there for you and your family. Hopefully you seek help before things escalate, but if not, and legal charges are filed, I can help you navigate through that process too.

In this time of isolation we can still unite against domestic violence. We check-in on friends and extended family.  We can keep an eye on our neighbors. We can protect our own family from ourselves or our spouse by reaching out for help before tensions escalate. Together we can make a difference in the lives of those around us.

[i] Love in the time of coronavirus: Couples at home find friction instead of sparks, John D’Anna, Arizona Republic. Reno Gazette Journal 3/19/2020.

[ii] Home isolation is fertile ground for domestic abuse, Alia E. Dastagir, USA Today, 3/19/2020