By Tiffany Lesnik, Domestic Attorney
The social isolation, fear, anxiety, and extreme restrictions that have been put into place amidst the coronavirus pandemic are enough to cause the most well-adjusted person to become uneasy, restless, anxious and depressed and to feel the need to escape. For those in relationships fraught with abuse, the social isolation, fear, and anxiety are even worse, and being trapped with their oppressor may seem unbearable.
Unfortunately, a pandemic creates an even more toxic situation for those in an abusive relationship. The “stay put” orders and closures that are in effect countywide and statewide have increased levels of anxiety and depression. During times of stress, we also tend to see an increase in consumption of alcohol and other substances in order to deal with the feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. If someone is stuck at home with a partner who becomes more brazen or mean when they drink or use drugs, there is a greater risk of reckless, erratic and dangerous behavior. This can feel like a prison to those trapped inside and does not have to involve physical violence.
Domestic violence (which includes abuse) in North Carolina and in other states is “continued harassment that leads to substantial emotional distress.” Basically, the feeling that the victim(s) is walking around on pins and needles and that at any moment the volcano (the abuser) is going to explode (and for no legitimate reason). The tension in abusive relationships is likely to increase during a pandemic and the abuser’s patience runs thin with everyday family life and all of the chaos, noise, and responsibilities that accompany that.
Finally, a central tenet of most abusive relationships is social and familial isolation. The abuser ensures that family and friends are ousted from the home slowly but surely. The pandemic and the quarantines give them an opportunity to even further manipulate their partners and children and keep them further isolated from being able to seek help. They can use quarantine or threat of illness to keep partners inside and away from help to the extreme.
Seeking help at this time may seem impossible. However, there is still legal relief in this time of uncertainty. It may be hard to make phone calls, search for relief on the Internet or try to contact a lawyer. You must always keep safety first and if you think that you cannot safely seek help then you may need to wait. However, your first line of defense if you feel that you or your children are in imminent danger is to call 911! Law enforcement is still working and willing to help. Also, non-profit domestic violence agencies are still open and ready to help, and their services are free to the public. Due to the closings, some of the services may be limited but they are still offering some services and assistance with filing Domestic Violence Protective Orders or Restraining Orders.
While the Court System may be closed right now, there are some courtrooms still open for business and still hearing cases. One of those courtrooms is the domestic violence courtroom. You can go to your local courthouse and file for a Protective Order right now, even with all of the closures. A Protective Order generally will evict your spouse and put a no contact in place to give you and your children some peace and security to get through this difficult period. There are also many attorneys who are offering free consultations via telephone or online right now. This is a good time to take advantage of those services. There are many domestic violence and other emergency services listed on the KKJ Forensic and Psychological Services website.
You can also obtain more information at our website at www.lesnik-law.com. We offer free initial consultations and are happy to help you or find someone who can.