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Domestic Violence victims at heightened health risks during COVID-19 pandemic

One in four women and one in seven men are expected to be victims of domestic violence during this pandemic...

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. —

One in four women and one in seven men are expected to be victims of domestic violence during this pandemic. This constant stress and fear can actually make it harder for victims to fight off the virus.

Because of COVID-19, millions of Americans are stuck in their homes. But, for many, home isn’t a safe place. Experts tell us that domestic violence victims are at risk in more ways than one-- especially during this pandemic.

WATCH: IMPACT OF COVID-19 CHANGES ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS

We heard from Dr. Patricia Speck, a Domestic Violence expert, nurse practitioner and professor at the UAB School of Nursing. Dr. Speck says, “It’s an intimate terrorism that saps energy and sets families up for long term health problems.”

She tells us the stress of domestic violence actually makes it harder for victims to fight off COVID-19. Dr. Speck adds, “Not to downplay the pandemic, but, the people who will be affected by the illness are those with exhausted immune systems, and that is the outcome of chronic stress because of domestic terrorism.”

During this time, tensions are high. Some will exert their frustrations on others. Dr. Speck says, “Stress goes up because jobs are lost, alcoholism increases… children are now witnessing their adults in the family hurt each other.” She adds, “We begin to see family structures disintegrate. Anger is one of those issues.  But, more importantly, addiction issues surface also. 

Children particularly suffer. Dr. Speck says, “Because they were unable to learn in school and then they watch the behaviors and many of them would adopt the behaviors they see in the home. Children without support under chronic stress cannot learn.”

Dr. Speck tells us the numbers of those searching for help are already on the rise. She says, “In Birmingham, they may have seen as much as 50 percent increase recently.”

But, many victims aren’t even able to access phones to call for help. She predicts once the “Stay at Home” order is lifted, the numbers will rise even more. Dr. Speck says, “It’s in that time that we’re going to see calls increase… they'll be reaching for help."

And there is help available. Here's a list of some resources: 

Receive local assistance from Crisis Services of North Alabama using their 24/7 HELPline at (256) 716-1000.  (You can browse the CSNA site in private mode and press a "quick escape" button to leave the site in case an abuser is near.)

Here’s a list of resources available if you or a loved one is thinking about taking their own life:

Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting “START” to 741-741.

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