There is a lot of fear and uncertainty in the world and now, more than ever we need to be caring and supportive of each other, even if it is from a distance. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a big toll on people’s mental health, and sometimes these emotions can have serious consequences. Not only has life become more unpredictable, but the routines, social connections and interactions that help people deal with their emotions have been curtailed. Finding ways to cope with stress in a healthy way can help make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Unfortunately, this health crisis has caused a severe spike in incidents of domestic abuse, not only across the United States, but globally as well. Domestic violence is about power and control and can be described as an ongoing perpetuation of intimidation, physical violence, sexual assault, emotional and financial abuse and/or other abusive behaviors as part of a methodical pattern of isolation, power and control committed by one intimate partner against the other. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that it was already a public health epidemic before COVID-19 came into the picture and it happens to more of those we care about than we could ever realize.
While lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing are essential to combating the spread of COVID-19, they can also trap victims with abusive partners who may take advantage of an already stressful situation to further isolate their victim. The lack of control a lot of people are currently feeling will likely be amplified for an abuser, and it is probable they will intensify their violence towards their victims. When a victim of domestic violence is forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser without access to the usual outlets that help to reduce tension, the threat looms largest where they should be the safest.
Here are some ways abusive partners could use COVID-19 to uniquely oppress their victims:
Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses (HLHAS) is a non-profit organization always committed to breaking the cycle of violence by providing immediate confidential crisis intervention, critical support services and numerous resources to victims of violence. We believe that every person has the right to make their own decisions and we provide empowerment, information, and support regarding those choices. HLHAS networks with local law enforcement, businesses and community members throughout our service area year-round promoting partnerships, education, awareness, and fundraising.
We are currently collaborating with Gary & Leo’s IGA in Conrad to raise both money and awareness with our 2nd annual “End Violence Donation Drive”. All proceeds will go to helping victims of violence throughout Pondera, Toole, Teton, Liberty, Chouteau & Glacier counties. We are also helping the Great Falls YWCA/Mercy Home Program with being the local drop off site for their shoe drive. Anyone wanting to donate their new or gently used shoes can drop them off at our office located in Conrad at 300 N. Virginia St #307 (by Norley Hall) during office hours M-F 8:30-4:30. Additionally, HLHAS is now part of Amazon Smile!! It's an easy and awesome way to show your support with no fees or additional cost to you. Please go to smile.amazon.com and consider choosing Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses, Inc. as your charity of choice and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases. We sincerely appreciate the public’s continued donations and support of our program!
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, we are always here to help. You are not alone, and it is not your fault. Please do not hesitate to call HLHAS at 406-278-3342, on our 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-800-219-7336, or stop by our office located at 300 N. Virginia St, Ste #307, Conrad, MT 59425.
~by Autumn Miller, Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses
~by Autumn Miller, Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses
During the long winter months of constant darkness and cold, looking forward to spring is the only sparkle that seems to add warmth to our souls. Trees will soon be waking up from their long period of lifelessness. The first flowers will be shooting up, infusing life into brown rough soil. Spring can be an exciting and beautiful time of year. William Shakespeare once wrote: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” In Montana it’s more like Doug Larson’s “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”
For some, Spring is just another season, April just another month. For some, weather and season changes don’t hold any real luster or cheer. For some, their fearful world is full of torment, abuse and neglect without access to safety or justice.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness month and now, more than ever, we need to recognize the importance of families and communities working together in order to validate survivors and challenge the culture which questions the actions of victims, rather than those of their attackers. These crimes do happen in our rural communities and regrettably, quite frequently. We must work together and do all we can to prevent child abuse and sexual assault from ever happening in the first place.
Unfortunately, society tends to turn a blind eye and/or blame victims. When a survivor of child abuse or sexual assault decides to open up and talk about their traumatic experience(s), the best way to respond is simply to start by believing. The first person they tend to confide in is usually someone they trust, like a friend or family member. A positive, supportive reaction can increase the chances they will report to law enforcement and reach out for help from other sources, as well as enhance the progression of their healing. Sadly, most victims never report the crime to law enforcement, sometimes because of the responses they receive from friends and family members. One failed response can more than likely lead to continued abuse and additional victims. Survivors are often very hesitant to speak out, thinking others won’t believe them, or that they themselves will be blamed for what happened. Knowing how to respond is important because a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where there are no consequences for the perpetrators. It is important to simply listen, offer support and whatever types of assistance they need; let them take the lead. Let them decide what they want to tell you about the abuse/assault – don’t force them to talk if they aren’t ready. When in doubt, just ask how you can help. Let the survivor know you are there for them, but always let them make the choice to accept your help or not. Refrain from asking the “why” questions. Even with the best of intentions, these can sound accusatory and cause survivors to self-blame. Here are a few suggestions on what you could say:
No one deserves to live in fear. Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses (HLHAS) in Conrad, MT breaks the silence and stops the cycle of violence by helping others improve personal and professional reactions, giving a voice and support to survivors and their families, and offering as many services, resources and referrals we can to survivors. We can also provide a multiple training workshops to promote public awareness and education.
For additional information and resources on Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month, call Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses at 406-278-3372 or check out: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam and https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/