OPINION: COVID-19 Quarantine isn’t so simple living with an abuser

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by Georgia Connally

Editor’s note: This is an account of an actual experience. Names have been changed for confidentiality. Domestic violence also transcends gender and all people are vulnerable to it.

A few years ago, I met a woman (we will call her Karen) who was trapped in an unhealthy marriage with her partner—we will call her Shirley.

In the beginning, Shirley sought to control the Couple’s money. She would not let Karen use a credit card, debit card, or bank account.

Next, Shirley told Karen that she hated her friends. She drove a wedge between Karen and her friends and family. She felt alone.

Then, Shirley became violent. She threw things at Karen in anger. She broke objects in their house. After months of this abuse, Karen became accustomed to walking on eggshells—pretending to be the perfect partner—to protect herself.

Money

But, over time, Karen began to feel trapped. She could not leave Shirley because she depended on her financially—she made sure of that. So, Karen got a job at a restaurant in town. She committed to full-time shifts, and she saved every dime.

Confidence

After a few weeks on the job, Karen began to feel like herself again.  She had developed friendships at work.  She was already in line for a promotion.  She began to feel strong.  

Apparently, Shirley also noticed the change in Karen’s demeanor. Shirley noticed Karen’s confidence.

Friendships

Every day after her shift, Shirley became angry with Karen from the moment she stepped foot in the door. She began to berate her about her friends at work. She accused her of cheating on her.

After a few months of this, Karen became numb to her behavior. She depended on work to cheer her up. She depended on her work friends for advice. Unlike at home, Karen felt safe at work. Karen stayed strong—because every day she went to work—where she felt valued, needed, respected.

After a few months, Shirley hit Karen with a curling iron. She burnt her face and hands in front of their child.

Survival

Karen left Shirley. She pretended to go to work the next morning—failing to drop the kids at daycare like usual. Instead, she went to the home of a friend from work. Eventually, Karen was able to use money that she had saved to get her own apartment. She got a restraining order. And, she survived.

Now, ask yourself if Karen has a chance at survival. 

Welcome to Quarantine, America.

Now, I want you to go back to Karen’s story and imagine a scenario where Karen is quarantined in the house with Shirley. No money. No friendships. No Confidence.

For me, quarantine is just fine and dandy. I am all holed up in my house, wearing jammies and working from my couch. But, for others, the reality of quarantine is much more serious. There are people all over America quarantined with an abuser—their abuser. And, the reality of their situation is serious.

Think carefully next time you shame someone for not staying at home. Staying at home could actually mean their death.

Life-time prevalence of IPV in LGB couples appeared to be similar to or higher than in heterosexual ones: 61.1% of bisexual women, 43.8% of lesbian women, 37.3% of bisexual men, and 26.0% of homosexual men experienced IPV during their life, while 35.0% of heterosexual women and 29.0% of heterosexual men experienced IPV. When episodes of severe violence were considered, prevalence was similar or higher for LGB adults (bisexual women: 49.3%; lesbian women: 29.4%; homosexual men: 16.4%) compared to heterosexual adults (heterosexual women: 23.6%; heterosexual men: 13.9%) (Breiding et al., 2013).

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