How can I protect myself from physical abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown?
When we talk about self-isolation, social-distancing, quarantines, or lockdowns, we assume that home is a safe space for everyone, but for survivors of domestic violence, this isn’t always true.
If you have been physically hurt and you are apprehensive about going to a hospital or an emergency room for fear of exposure to the virus:
1. Call the nearest hospital or a trusted family doctor.
2. Explain your situation.
3. Ask them where you can get the help you need.
4. Get details regarding precautions you need to take if you go to a healthcare facility.
Why is domestic violence increasing during the lockdown?
With individuals working from home, or losing their jobs, and children being out of school, people may be confined in their home with their abusers. This could lead to increased conflict and aggression, and volatile relationships can turn violent.
It's also important to keep in mind that there may be increased stress and anxiety due to uncertainty, and abusers might feel like they are losing control - they may choose to indulge in violence towards family members to regain their sense of power and control.
The physical distancing that a lockdown demands also reduces people's access to their support systems, abusers may feel like there won't be consequences. Furthermore, women may find it hard to leave the home due to reduced public transportation, and they might not want to visit their parents because they are elderly and they might be scared of exposing them to the virus.
How do I develop a safety plan?
Find time and space to write out a safety plan that you can follow. Make sure you keep your plan safe and out of the hands of your abuser.
Begin by listing scenarios that trigger violence. This can involve identifying triggers, walking through prior incidents, and considering lockdown-specific situations that may precipitate abuse. Is there more abuse when your abuser consumes alcohol? Are they more likely to engage in physical abuse when their routine is upsetted in some way? Listing these scenarios will help you identify when violence may occur, allowing you to prepare and protect yourself.
Problem Solve. Brainstorm solutions to the list of possible scenarios. Think through the pros and cons of each solution. Choose solutions you are comfortable with. For instance, identify a safe space within your home that they can go to if there is violence due to substance abuse. Does your abuser usually drink in a specfic room, do they drink at a specific time of day?
Facilitate connections. Identify people that you can turn to when you're facing violence. Building new relationships can be difficult during this traumatic time, instead you may need to map out who can help you in different situations - perhaps your parents may be able to help you financially, or they might be able to connect you with other family members who could help.
How can I be prepared for emergency situations?
1. Keep all your important documents with you (passport, driver’s license, or any other form of identification, bank records, medical records)
2. Remember the address of the nearest police station
3. Try to keep money and a phone aside, for your use only.
4. Know which friend or family member's house you can go to.
5. Avoid choosing your elderly family members in order to reduce their exposure to the virus.
How do I leave in an emergency situation?
The reduction in public transport and cab services during this period can make it very hard to leave.
Police and ambulance services are essential services that will be available during the lockdown. You can call the police, explain the situation, and ask for protection.
If you are hurt, you can also call an ambulance service.
To call the Police, dial 100.
To call an Ambulance, dial 108
How do I protect my children from abuse during the lockdown?
1.Teach your children how to use the phone and help them understand when and how to contact emergency services.
2. Identify a code word that you can use to communicate to your children that they should escape or contact the police. Make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means.
3.They might tell your abusive partner about the plan, which could be dangerous. To avoid this, use phrases such as “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when your father/mother becomes violent.”
How do I talk to my children about the violence?
1.Talk to your children about staying safe.
2. If there is violence, tell them to go to a part of the house where there are no weapons. Ask them them to avoid the kitchen and the bathrooms.
3. Let them know that they should never try to help you or save you during a violent episode because that can escalate the situation.
What do I do if my child is immunocompromised?
1.If your child has asthma, diabetes, or is immunocompromised in any way, print or write out a card with the information about their condition and medication and have them wear it on a chain/thread around their neck or sew it onto their clothes.
2.Carry any necessary medication with you at all times.
3.Teach your children how to communicate about their existing condition, and let them know that they should let the doctors or police know immediately.
What does it mean to be immunocompromised?
If you are immunocompromised, you may also be at high risk of developing complications from the virus.
Being immunocompromised means having a weakened or impaired immune system (through illness, medication, or malnutrition) which reduces your ability to fight infections including COVID-19.
The common conditions that can cause your immune system to become compromised are: diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, blood and bone marrow cancers, HIV/AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, certain types of thyroid disease, chronic kidney, lung, heart disease, and liver disease.
There are also lots of drugs that suppress your immune system, such as the treatment for conditions like cancer, lupus, that work by suppressing your immune system.
Talk to your doctor about your condition and whether you are immunocompromised.
How can I prepare for emergencies when I'm immunocompromised?
1. Let a trusted friend know about the situation, and ask them if you can stay with them in case of an emergency. Try to pick a friend who lives alone or with very few people, in order to reduce exposure to the virus.
2. If possible pack a bag with clothes, medication, a copy of your prescriptions and medical records, and any necessary equipment, in case you have to leave your home suddenly.
How do I develop a safety plan that is specific to my situation?
1. Tell your doctor about the abuse and discuss options and strategies for the situation.
2. Print/write down information about your condition. Carry it on your person at all times.
3. Ask your doctor to write a note about your condition and medication on their letterhead and carry that with you. This will help you explain your condition to a doctor or nurse during an emergency.
What do I do if I'm physically abused? Should I go to a hospital?
The reduction in public transport and cab services during this period can make it hard to leave.
Police and ambulance services will be available during this time. You can call the police, explain the situation, and ask for protection.
If you are hurt, you can also call an ambulance service. Call the ambulance service and tell them about your existing condition and the abuse. Ensure that the ambulance has been disinfected and sanitized.
My abuser is monitoring my technology use, what do I do?
1.Use a safer device: Try using a device that your abuser doesn’t have physical or remote access to.
2. Prevent escalation: The abuse may increase if you cut off your abuser’s access to a device. You may want to use a safer device for private communication, but keep the monitored device to document abuse.
3. Change passwords and usernames: Update your login information using a safe device and do not access these accounts from the monitored device.
4. Delete any unfamiliar apps: Delete apps that you didn’t download and look for increase in data usage to check if spyware has been installed on your phone.
How do I know if my technology use is being monitored?
1. Look for patterns. Do you think you’re being watched or monitored? Try to identify the device that your abuser may be using to track you.
2. Are you worried that your abuser may be able to access your communication devices?
3. Is information being posted about you online?
How do I protect myself on social media?
1. Don't post information about your location. Avoid posting on public forums, use private or closed forums if possible.
2. When a friend or employer posts an image of you or tags you in a post, it can alert your abuser to your surroundings, the people who may be helping you, or the devices you may be using to communicate with them
3. Talk to your friends and family about what they can post online about you. Let them know if you would prefer that they don’t publish images of you, or tag you in posts.
4. Your employers, religious organizations, sport teams, volunteer organizations may also share your personal information online. Let them know that you do not want images of you posted online.
How do I protect myself while surfing the internet?
1. Private browsing allows users to surf the internet without the browser collecting history.
2. Delete history by clearing your browsing data to make sure your abuser does not know what sites you may have visited.
Please note browser privacy options are not going to protect you from remote spying or monitoring if an abusive person is using spyware software.
How so I protect myself from spyware?
Your partner may have installed spyware on your device, if you think your partner:
•knows your whereabouts when you haven’t told them
•knows things about your online search history even after you’ve deleted it
•knows about conversations or messages
•questions you about topics you have personally researched but never discussed
You may notice that your cell phone battery drains quickly or that your data usage spikes.
If you think your device might have spyware do not use that device to create safety plans, contact helplines, but continue to use it for general tasks such as checking the weather.
How do I reduce my anxiety or stress levels?
Grounding: This is the process of using emotional or physical tools to bring you into the moment and distract your mind from anxiety and traumatic memories. You can use the following tools to feel more grounded:
Touching an object, digging your heels into the ground, or holding onto a table or chair, or counting your breaths.
Reciting the alphabet backwards.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise
Describe 5 things you currently see.
Describe 4 things you feel right now.
Describe 3 things you can hear.
Describe 2 things you can smell.
Describe 1 good thing about yourself.
Identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts by using the RESET tool:
Remember it is normal to have intrusive or unwanted thoughts.
Ease up on control, it doesn't always work well with thoughts.
See and accept your thoughts: You are more than just your thoughts.
Experience thoughts as they happen: Don't judge them.
Train your skills: Practicing these strategies is important to help you get better!
Problem-solving: Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. The best thing you can do is to talk through these worries as a family and identify specific fears. Plan for possible consequences such as you or your child falling ill, or limited access to your support systems.
Self-care: Look after your body. Exercise by doing something you enjoy such as walking on your terrace if possible, yoga, dancing, or stretching.
Reduce your exposure to the news or social media if you find it anxiety provoking. You can give yourself ten or fifteen minutes during the day to access these resources.
Do activities you enjoy such as listening to music or podcasts, painting, gardening, or cooking, it can help you divide your day into different parts and give you breaks when you need them.
How do I help my family during this time?
1.Talking things over as a family can help identify specific fears and clarify the facts.
2.Families should discuss and develop plans in case someone gets sick, or if something happens that can interrupt their normal routine.
1. Assign a specific time to worry – when you begin to worry, tell yourself you will only worry during your daily “Worry Time”- say between 5 and 6 pm. This helps in postponing the worry and decreasing its intensity.
2. Create a Comfort Box or Bag for yourself – this could have pictures that make you happy, a piece of cloth or a stone to touch, something with a nice aroma, some words of a song on a piece of paper- basically anything that can soothe you and help you calm down.
NIMHANS Center for Well-Being - 94808 29670
Bembala - 99806 60548
The International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) - 1800 102 7282
iCALL – 9372048501/9920241248
SNEHA - 98330 52684 / 91675 35765
Swayam - 98307 72813
JAGORI - (011) 26692700
Sakshi Violence Intervention Center: (0124) 2562336/5018873
National Commission for Women
Register complaints at http://ncw.nic.in/
How do I document abuse using technology?
1.Email: Save emails by taking print outs or screen shots of the emails with the headers (for IP information). Forwarded emails will lose the identifying information needed for evidence.
2.Text: Text messages may be deleted automatically if you run out of space. Take a screenshot of the text and the phone number to retain as evidence.
3.Phone Calls: Keep your phone records to show the number of the originating call, date, and time. You could also record the phone conversations but the voice should be clear, the whole conversation needs to be recorded, and the recorded device must be sealed and kept in safe custody to prevent tampering.
4.Social Media: Save screenshots of the abuse. You can also report the harassment to the social media site.