When Staying Home Isn’t Safe: COVID-19 and Domestic Violence

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has caused a host of unforeseen horrors. It has created a worldwide health crisis, but it has also created financial hardship, forced millions out of work, and changed the way we socialize with one another. However, there are still other issues the pandemic has brought to light and made worse most people overlook. One of those issues is domestic violence.

With COVID-19 in the foreground, there has been an alarming increase in domestic violence and abuse (commonly referred to as “intimate partner violence” in clinical/academic settings). According to a report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to reduce progress towards ending gender-based violence by one-third and may cause an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence for every 3 months of continued lockdown.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, getting through this period of quarantine and self-isolation safely may seem close to impossible. However, there are still measures you can take to remove yourself from that situation or find help for someone in the midst of it.

Key Points:

  • COVID-19 can agitate abusive situations, and abusers may change their behavior and take advantage of self-isolation measures.
  • Miami-Dade courts are still taking domestic violence cases during COVID-19 closures.
  • You can find domestic violence resources at the end of this article.

Domestic Violence During COVID-19

External factors often add stress in situations where safety and financial independence is key. With COVID-19 as a stressor, domestic violence situations may become more dangerous to victims. As quarantining and self-isolating become more commonplace, victims may find themselves at home with their abuser far more frequently than normal.

In a domestic violence situation, survivors may find that the pandemic has changed some of their abuser’s behaviors and may not recognize new forms of domestic abuse. Abusers may use the virus as a scare tactic to keep children away from a victim or to keep the victim from seeing family members. Abusers may also withhold necessary personal protective items, such as masks, hand sanitizer, or disinfectants. They may also take advantage of quarantine measures to further isolate victims from family and friends.

If you identify with any of the behaviors mentioned above or are still unsure if you are in an abusive situation, check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s ‘Is This Abuse?’ page. 

Legal Action During COVID-19

Though it may not feel like the safest of options, there is legal recourse available to victims of domestic violence in Florida. Despite court closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami-Dade county courts are still taking domestic violence cases. Depending on your situation, you may be able to file for a divorce and/or an emergency restraining order.

Restraining Orders

In cases of domestic violence, a restraining order is called an injunction for protection against domestic violence. In the state of Florida, domestic violence is defined as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member”. If you are a victim of any of these abuses or have reason to believe you are in immediate danger, you are eligible to apply for an injunction.

Related Article: 5 Things to Know Before Filing a Restraining Order in Florida 

When filing for a restraining order in Florida, you have the option of filing alone or with the help of a lawyer. While filing alone may seem like an affordable option, not having an attorney to guide you and represent you in court may cost you more. After filing, you will be granted a temporary injunction and a court date will be set for the hearing. At this hearing, a judge will decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to grant the restraining order. With the help of an attorney, you can make sure you provide proper evidence and take the necessary steps towards being granted a restraining order.

Divorce

If you are considering divorce, you may want to file for a restraining order beforehand. Divorce can often make domestic violence situations worse, so having a safety plan before filing for divorce can help keep you and your family safe from harm. Before talking to a lawyer about divorce, the most important thing to do is to make sure you (and your children, if you have any) are safe. However, if there are children involved, you may want to speak to a lawyer about your situation before leaving your home permanently. The details of the situation may affect your divorce in court later on.

Related Article: Divorced and Co-Parenting During COVID-19

If your spouse is violent and you fear for your safety, you should take all the necessary steps to protect yourself. There are plenty of resources available in Florida for victims of domestic violence. These resources can help victims find a safe way to leave abusive relationships behind, physically and financially. Resources range from housing assistance to unemployment benefits. However, if your spouse is actively violent, your best resource is law enforcement. In the event of a violent episode, always call 911.

If you’re ready to speak to a lawyer about your options in a domestic violence situation, call the attorneys at The Aguilera Law Center, P.A. We will remain open, whether in-person or remotely, to help answer your questions during this difficult time.
Call (305) 255-FIRM or contact us online.

National and State Resources

Florida Department of Children and Families Domestic Violence Page

Florida Council Against Sexual Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline

National Dating Abuse Helpline

Break The Cycle

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