Covid19 and interpersonal abuse
Domestic abuse and family violence are bound to increase because of the new laws and policies that have been put in place.
Many victims of abuse are stuck at home with their abusers because of lockdowns of non-essential services, people being urged to work from home, and people being ordered or choosing to self-isolate in their homes. There is financial insecurity for many.
In this article I’m not going to discuss whether institutional policies for dealing with #Covid19 / #Coronavirus are wise or foolish. I just want to focus on the plight of the already-abused… and the folks who no doubt will start being abused in their own homes now that more people are stuck at home together with family members for long periods.
I chatted today to a uniformed police officer. I asked for his thoughts on the changes. He said, “Family violence will go through the roof.”
Church provision of pastoral care for the abused has always been patchy and often downright negligent – resulting in further abuse and re-traumatisation of the abused.
Now that churches are closed or compelled to do most of their activities remotely – by phone call, social messaging, or online video – their pastoral care for the abused is likely to become even worse.
James 1:27 is an important verse for church leaders and all Christians who have the capacity to extend care to others. In reading this verse, bear in mind that ‘widows’ refers to all women who are bereft of a husband whether by the husband’s death, desertion or abusiveness.
Pure devotion, and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their adversity, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
‘Visit’ can mean a phone call. If you are making a call to someone who you think might be living with an abuser, be mindful that the abuser may be overhearing the conversation. Ask the person if it is a good time to talk or whether they’d like to talk another time, or interact another way. Also be aware that some abusers monitor their victim’s phones and computer activity. Take the lead from the victim. Victims are probably more expert on their own safety than you are, unless you have been trained in safety issues with domestic abuse.
To everyone of good will:
High anxiety reduces cognitive ability. If you’ve been making stuff-ups recently because the Coronavirus panic is making you anxious, don’t be too hard on yourself.
I hope you use common sense. Please do not forget the poor.
To pastors and elders of churches:
You had plenty of opportunity in the past to get to know the abuse victims in your church face to face – to find out who they are, hear their stories over time, lament with them, defend them, help them obtain justice and reparation, and help them in their advocacy for other victims. The time for that face to face ‘getting to know them’ is past, at least for the foreseeable future.
Think about that. How does that sit on your conscience?
To unrepentant evildoers:
Repent! Jesus Christ is coming again. No one knows the day or the hour.
To folks who are suffering abuse or are enduring the lifetime consequences of having been abused:
The bad news is that your abuser may escalate – become even more abusive. And support-services will be even more overstretched.
Your emotions of fear, anxiety, depression or anger may become more intense… or you may find yourself numbing your emotions and dissociating even more than you have in the past. I encourage you to be kind to yourself.
It may help to keep reminding yourself: “It is not my fault. I am not going crazy. I am not to blame. I am being abused.“
Whatever your circumstances, I encourage you to lean on Jesus Christ. Jesus does not break bruised reeds. He is patient and kind and merciful – especially to those who have been afflicted and mistreated by arrogant, foolish or malicious people.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider the trouble which I suffer of them that hate me : thou that liftest me up from the gates of death.
That I may shew all thy praises within the ports of the daughter of Sion : I will rejoice in thy salvation.
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made : in the same net which they hid privily, is their foot taken.
The Lord is known to execute judgement : the ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands.
The wicked shall be turned into hell : and all the people that forget God.
For the poor shall not always be forgotten : the patient abiding of the meek shall not perish for ever.
Up, Lord, and let not man have the upper hand : let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Put them in fear, O Lord : that the heathen may know themselves to be but men.
(Myles Coverdale’s translation as per the 1662 Book of Common Prayer)