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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

COVID-19: Coping With an Abusive Partner or Family Member While in Isolation

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The world is faced with one of the toughest health medical crises of the 21st century- COVID-19. This unprecedented pandemic has led to a country-wide shut down in different countries of the world.

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People are gradually learning to live differently, avoid close contact with each other, take personal hygiene seriously, and stay indoor. The problem with the new crisis is more than the deaths and increasing new cases that are almost-constantly recorded.

There are thousands of people locked indoors with abusive partners or family members as a result of the compulsory isolation, which is a medium the government has adopted in their fight against the new coronavirus.

While all attention is drawn towards the medical crisis and how to bring it to a final end, it is important to consider those who may not have the coronavirus, but have no choice than to stay at home with partners who will use the opportunity to mentally and physically abuse them.

The fact of the matter is that there is almost nothing anyone from the outside can do at the moment. However, there are several things that the affected persons can do to stay safe until the pandemic is over.

This article is dedicated to sharing tips on how to cope with an abusive partner or family member while on isolation.

Seven steps to help you stay safe if you are stuck with an abusive partner or family member during COVID-19 isolation

  1. The first step to staying safe during this time, if you are with an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, is to recognize and understand that it is actually happening. If you have been able to identify an aspect of emotional abuse in your marriage or relationship, it is vital to acknowledge that first of all. By being honest with yourself about what you are dealing with, you can start to retake control of your life.
  2. Take your mental and physical health seriously, and make them a priority. You may be worried about pleasing the person who is abusing you, but that has to stop gradually. Take care of your health needs. Do something simple that will help you have positive thoughts and affirm who you are going to be fine. Also, make sure that you get a good amount of rest if you can and eat healthy meals if available. These simple steps for self-care can go a long way to make dealing with the day-to-day trouble of emotional abuse a little manageable in the meantime.
  3. Establish boundaries with the abusive partner if there is no risk of physical abuse. Firmly tell the person on the abusive end that they may no longer call you names, yell at you, insult you, talk you down, or be rude to you, but do this if you are only dealing with emotional abuse. Then, tell them what you will do or what will happen if they repeat this behavior. For example, tell them that if they insult you, yell, or call you names, the conversation will be made, and you will move to a different part of the house and lock them out of that area. The goal is to follow through on the boundaries you set. Do not communicate or make any attempt to set boundaries that you cannot keep.
  4. Stop blaming yourself for getting into the relationship. If you have been tuck in an emotionally abusive relationship for a week, a month, a year, or longer, This period of isolation will make you believe that there is something seriously wrong with you. Yes, you had the chance to walk away before COVID-19 came and caused compulsory isolation that got you stuck with the abuser, but now is the time to start the journey to breaking free.
  5. Realize that you are not the creator nor the cause of your partner’s abusive behavior; thus, you cannot “fix” the person. Despite your intentions and best efforts, you will change an emotionally abusive person by doing anything different or by changing. An abusive person always makes a decision to behave abusively and will not change because of you. Remind yourself that you do not and cannot control their actions and that it is not your fault that they are who or what they are. The only thing you are at liberty to fix or control at the moment is your response to the physical or emotional abuse.
  6. Do not try to engage with an abusive person in any way. In other words, if your abusive partner tries to start up an argument for any reason, starts insulting you, begins to demand things from you, or starts to rage with jealousy, do not attempt to make any explanations. Don’t ever try to soothe their crazy feelings for stuff you are not guilty of. Simply brace yourself and walk away from the situation if it is possible. Engaging with your abuser is not a smart move as it only sets you up for more heartache and abuse. No matter what you do or how hard you try, you will not do things right in the sight of an abuser.
  7. Build a support network immediately. It is true that you are stuck and can’t go anywhere till the lockdown is over, but you can communicate with people virtually. Stop being silent about what is going on with you and the abuse you are dealing with. Talk to a family member, a trusted friend, or even an online counselor about what you are dealing with. Take some time away from the abusive person as much as you can, if possible. Play a game or learn a few things online if you can, as this will distract you from the abuser as much as possible.

Most importantly, begin to work on an exit plan as from now, so that you can break-free as soon as the isolation is over.

If your friend, partner, or family member who is on the abusive end has no intention of changing, you will not be able to stay in the abusive relationship for the rest of your life. It will eventually get out of hand, and you may lose it eventually.

Be discrete about your plans, and make sure to go through with them as soon as you are out of the house.

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Characteristics of emotionally abusive people

Look out for the following signs of emotional abuse

Emotionally abusive people display have expectations. Examples include:

  • Always making unreasonable demands
  • Expecting that you put everything else aside and pay attention to their needs
  • Demanding that you both spend all of your time together
  • Always dissatisfied regardless how much you give or how hard you try
  • Criticizing you for not doing things according to their standards
  • Not permitting you to have a different opinion from their’s
  • Demanding that you state exact times and dates when discussing something that makes you upset. When you are unable to do this, they are quick to dismiss the even like it never happened

Emotionally abusive people will always invalidate you. Some examples of how they do this include:

  • Undermining, distorting, or dismissing how you perceive your reality
  • Trying to define how you should, or should not feel by refusing to accept your feelings
  • Requiring you to explain how you feel till you become frustrated continuously
  • Accusing you of being “crazy,” “too sensitive” or “too emotional.”
  • Refusing to accept or acknowledge your ideas or opinions as valid
  • Dismissing your wants, requests, and needs as undeserved or ridiculous
  • Saying things like “you’re blowing things out of proportion” or “you always exaggerate.”
  • Accusing you of being needy, selfish or greedy if you attempt to express your needs or wants

Emotionally abusive people will always create chaos. Some examples are:

  • Starting arguments just because they feel like it
  • Making contradictory and confusing statements
  • Having sudden mood changes or drastic emotional outbursts
  • Nitpicking at your work, your clothes, your hair, and more
  • Causing you to feel like you are “walking on eggshells” when you are around them

​These and many more are the behaviors to expect from emotionally abusive people. For those who are physically abusive, you can expect them to take any slight opportunity that presents itself as an avenue to get physical with you.

Here are a few tips for coping during COVID-19 isolation or lockdown if you are stuck with a physically abusive partner or family member:

  1. Protect yourself: While you may not be able to fight back, avoid confrontations or arguments that may lead to fights or other forms of torture.
  2. Avoid them if possible: If you live in a house with at least two rooms, stay away from the abuser as much as you can.
  3. Avoid trying to escape if the risks are high: This is the wrong time to try running away because of the compulsory isolation, and because not every country makes provision for cases like yours. If you have been able to communicate with a trusted person or the police, and it is safe to make a move, then you can try. However, make sure that the abuser never gets to you once you escape. Better yet, avoid fights as much as you can and wait out the isolation period before you walk away.

Please remember that COVID-19 still has no cure, and the best way to stay safe is to maintain a social distance of at least 2 meters when around people.

Always wash your hands and eat healthy daily, as it is essential to boost your immune system. The virus is fast spreading, but there is hope that it will be over soon, and we can all return to living our lives like we used to.

Till then, take these safety measures seriously and stay as protected as you can. Feel free to share other tips that do not involve violence here. We look forward to your comments.

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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