Photos Jason Huynh

Social Distancing. Shelter in Place. Stay Home. These phrases have become quite familiar during the coronavirus pandemic and unfortunately for some, this extended time spent at home can cause an entirely different set of worries. Elevated stress levels and anxiety, coupled with a lack of normalcy and control has led to a dramatic rise in domestic violence cases.  

“Normally, domestic violence cases run at the rate of one call every 20 minutes,” says Balerie Byars, creator and operator of Lips UnChained, a domestic violence awareness and help organization. “Ever since everyone has been sheltered in place, that rate has tripled in various states. Overall, domestic violence hotline calls are through the roof right now, and incidents are making it to the news. We are in the times of the highest amount of domestic violence incidents ever.” 

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Balerie Byars

While the shelter at home mandates are necessary to flatten the curve of the coronavirus spread, suddenly being home for extended amounts of time without a sense of routine or normalcy can easily have a negative impact on peace of mind and mental stability. Those who might be struggling with adjusting to these changes or worrying about finances that have been impacted might also be tempted to take their frustrations out on those they are closest to. 

 “People are struggling to deal with such a drastic change in the world and in their everyday lives while having no way to control what’s happening,” says Byars. “And at times, people take all of those mixed emotions out on those closest to them, and most of the time that is the significant other.” But there are steps to take in order to avoid conflict, she says. 

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“People have to make the best of the situation. They have to understand that none of this is within anyone’s control. We gotta figure out ways to give each other space in the home, and acknowledge and respect the need for the space, even if you don’t agree. Don’t ever throw gasoline on the fire. Pray together, talk about it. Play games. Get through it together. If you sense that that’s not going to happen, realize that and do not make a situation worse, especially in this time of elevated stress and anxiety levels.” 

Byars reminds us that there can also be unintended victims of domestic violence. “Remember that with everyone having to adapt to the changes, children hear and see the bad stuff also, especially the arguing, the fighting, the crying. Think of them. Try making a change for their sake. You have to seek different results as no one has experienced this before, there’s no precedent to the situation we are living in today.” 

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation and needs help immediately, resources are available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Seek out Lips Unchained on social media. Call the Hospitality House of Rome’s 24 Hour Crisis line at 706-235-HOPE. They will not reject anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 like cough or fever and will work to safely move you to safety. 

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