WARNING: The following story describes situations of domestic violence that may be upsetting to some. Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or online at udvc.org If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately.
(ABC4) – In addition to the prevalence of a new, deadly virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about additional health and safety issues.
According to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (UDVC), calls into the Utah Domestic Violence LINKLine have sharply increased during the health crisis. Liz Sollis, a spokesperson for the Coalition, also states that many victim service providers have reported that the average stay for a victim in a shelter or emergency housing has also seen a substantial increase.
As ABC4’s Jason Ngygen reported in May, there had also been a spike in domestic violence homicides involving a firearm.
It can be difficult for those who witness or suspect violence to be happening around them to know how to help. What can appear as a happy and healthy relationship on social media can be dramatically different in reality. Sollis teaches ABC4.com that looking for subtle signs can be the start of an intervention process that may be lifesaving.
“I think one of the main things for people to pay attention to is power and control,” she says. ”Power and control are going to be evident throughout a relationship if it’s happening, you’re going to see it in some way. In the beginning, it may be very subtle.”
An abuser may be flexing a feeling of power by controlling who their partner speaks to and spends the entirety of their time with. Financial control is also a common tactic by an abusive member of a relationship, Sollis adds.
At that point, if abuse is suspected by a friend or someone around the victim, a gentle and safe conversation to let the person know they’re supported and that resources are available can be a starting point. The UDVC makes confidential and free support a priority with a 24/7 hotline. That commitment to keeping victims safe is also evident in a large quick escape button on the Coalition’s website, where a user can click to quickly be taken to a different site if they need to avoid being detected while seeking help.
While helping a person in a suspected and unseen harmful relationship can be a delicate situation, seeing blatant domestic violence in person can be tricky as well.
Sollis advises witnesses of domestic violence in public to contact 911. If an incident is heard about after the fact, calling a non-emergency number is recommended. Getting directly involved is strongly discouraged as it could result in escalated harm to the victim.
“A lot of times people might want to intervene on their own and we would just caution that that can be dangerous, not only for you but for the parties involved,” Sollis advises. “Many times with domestic violence, the people involved, especially the perpetrator, don’t want other people to know. Once they know that other people know, it could put the other victim at more risk.”
When placing a call to police regarding suspected or seen domestic violence, it’s important to have some valuable information on hand. Police will want to know if there are firearms in the couple’s home, what each person drives, and what their license plate reads. A follow-up call from police after an investigation is usually given, with certain information withheld.
Getting appropriately involved from a safe distance and letting the police do the work can be the difference between life and death.
“I think we’ve kind of conditioned ourselves to be like, ‘That’s not my business, what’s happening there is not my business,’ but I think when we see violence occurring, whether it’s between a man and a woman or a man and a man and a woman and a woman, it doesn’t matter, I think it’s important to call law enforcement,” Sollis says.
While there may be an impulse to question why a person would continue to subject themselves to abuse even after abuse, Sollis explains that walking away from a relationship is usually always an immensely difficult emotional process.
“It can be hard to understand why someone might want to stay when what we’re observing is an abusive relationship, right? But it’s important to remember that there’s they’ve invested a lot in this individual, they maybe have made a living together, they might have a vehicle together, they might have plans to marry, they might be married, they could have children. So just walking away is not the easiest thing to do.”
A cycle can develop within these stages of good times and bad times within a relationship that may be deceiving to those who are trapped in a harmful one. Feelings like hope, pride, and even fear can extend a bad relationship. Sollis says breaking the cycle by leaving can be a painful but sometimes necessary step.
“The reality is those cycles of abuse have been studied and documented for years and it’s hard,” she states. “It’s hard for someone to just walk away, or turn in their loved one.”
The fact that the amount calls into the hotline around the state has picked up may not be a bad thing, Sollis explains. It may lead to more lives being saved.
“The goal is to is to prevent the behavior from occurring and if it is occurring, to prevent it rising to a level of fatality,” Sollis says. “That is really the ultimate goal, to try to get people on both sides be it the victim or the perpetrator help so that the violence doesn’t continue, that’s the ultimate goal.”