Why Neighbors Matter So Much During the Pandemic
Domestic abuse happens in every single neighborhood in every single community.
Abusers frequently use isolation from family and friends to maintain control of their victims. The coronavirus pandemic, which requires families to shelter-in-place in order to stop the outbreak, adds to a victim’s isolation. However, neighbors are in a unique position to help survivors because, simply put, you are where they are.
Having a chat with a neighbor doesn’t necessarily arouse suspicion and there are often natural opportunities to engage with a victim that still respect social distancing. Walking the dog, mowing the lawn, watching the kids ride their bikes… all provide a chance to reach out and help.
Understanding How The Pandemic Effects Survivors
Here are a few things to consider if you’re unsure about whether or not to say anything.
Starting the Conversation
Read these helpful guides:
A common concern is feeling like you don’t know enough to respond well, but simply listening can help someone to break the silence around their situation….“Domestic abuse” and “domestic violence” are labels that many people struggle to identify with because they feel these terms don’t represent their experiences – particularly the control and coercion, and the psychological, emotional, sexual and financial abuse they have experienced….Just start conversations gently, conveying your concern. Ask about things you have noticed in the person’s behavior you suspect is experiencing abuse or in the person behaving abusively. Something like: “We haven’t seen much of you recently. Is everything OK?” or “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down. Has anyone upset you?” or even “I’m worried about you. I saw the way he looked at you, and you seem scared.” (excerpted from: The Conversation)
Let go of expectations of a “quick fix”…or that you know what is best for the victim. Also, be prepared to challenge any attitudes and beliefs that you may have about victims of domestic violence. Being a victim of abuse doesn’t mean that the person is any less intelligent, less strong, or less able than someone who is not a victim.” (excerpted from: Family, Friends and Co-Workers – WomensLaw.org)
If you don’t know your neighbor well, build up to the conversation. You can start with something as simple as making eye contact or a friendly wave.
When you think you’re ready to reach out, commit to staying connected.
What to Expect
Understanding why a victim is behaving in a certain way is often the key to understanding how you can best help.
50 Obstacles to Leaving (5-part series) – National Domestic Violence Hotline
Think About What You Can Offer
- Be part of their safety plan
- If you are someone they trust, talk to the victim about what they want. Try to find a safe time and place to speak with them (away from the abusive partner) and ask how you can best support them. They may not be ready or able to discuss the abuse with you; if this is the case, just let them know that you are there to support them in any way you can.
- Every time you hear abuse happening, keep a journal about the events. Mark the day it happens, the time it happens and what you heard or witnessed. This record can provide evidence if the victim does choose to approach law enforcement.
–Excepted from The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Above All, Be Safe!
NoMore.org: Intervening – Knowing When to Respond
Always stay safe!
If you see or hear an assault happening or are concerned for someone’s safety, call 9-1-1.