I`ve been free from my abuser since 2012, since he went to jail for attempting to murder my father and me by shooting us in front of my then 4-year-old son. But you see, before the shooting, while I was married to him (3 years) and for a year and a half after separating from him, I was not free. I was his prisoner.
I think about what my life was like being his wife, and I keep landing on isolation. Over the course of the marriage, he increasingly pulled me away from my friends and family. He controlled my emails and my social media accounts. He manipulated me in ways I didn`t even realize. A prime example was how he worked to chip away my co-parenting relationship with my older son`s father, which had been successful before he entered the picture. He insisted on reading email communications and even took over responses sometimes. He wouldn`t let me be on Facebook for a long time, claiming it would lead to infidelity; no matter how much reassurance I gave, he refused. He talked negatively about my friends, saying they were using meand weren`t good people. He would create drama in front of my parents and family members, always to bring attention back to himself. He moved us to an army base in Northern Virginia, where I knew no one, where I was under his thumb.
So I think about these things, about how under lock and key I was, and then I consider what people in abusive relationships are going through right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the U.S. are ordering citizens to stay at home and only leave for essential reasons ? with the threat of fines for not following the orders. Of course, this is necessary to flatten the curve and slow the spreading of this deadly virus.
But this is also a dream come true for abusers.
Their partners and children are stuck at home with them, under full control. Abusers can take advantage of this situation ? withholding information, misleading or outright lying about the pandemic, controlling and forbidding communication with loved ones, denying access to finances and transportation, among many other harmful tactics. There`s also the ?walking on eggshells? that absolutely increases when at home full-time, around the clock with an abuser. You never know what you might do or say to set them off, and in close quarters, this is what I`ve been calling a ?powder keg.? Who knows when they will explode? And when isolated, who can be there to help?
I don`t know what the answer is. I wish I did. I wish I could go into abusive homes and release the partners and children who are terrified, who are facing a reality that the chances of safely escaping are even less now. All I can do, as one person, is share my story and my concern for those who are in the most danger at this time. I`m lucky to be free and alive, but I know there are too many out there now who are living in minute-to-minute fear.
To all of us while we are home, if you hear yelling or see an argument happening outside, please don`t look the other way. Dial 911. You might save someone`s life.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or visit their website at thehotline.org.
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