While the climate of the world can feel isolating for anyone right now, isolation is unfortunately not a new phenomenon for victims of domestic violence. Having a strong support network has been shown to be incredibly helpful to a victim trying to escape a domestic violence situation, which is why most abusers try to use isolation tactics to maintain their control. However, there are safety strategies that someone can implement to feel safer in the midst of this isolating time and reduce the chance of total isolation with their abusive partner.
Isolating someone’s partner can look like any form of cutting off social contact or support, or attempting to at least limit it. Typically, the abuser uses jealousy to justify these actions, but that does not classify them as any less abusive. At first, it could look like someone saying seemingly harmless or even sweet things like suggesting they stay home with just them tonight, or implying that the friends they are going to see are not good friends and does this until it is slowly just the two of them. This can be a very confusing place to be because even though the abuser may be making the victim feel scared and intimidated, they are now the victim’s only social support. The victim’s situation could escalate as well if the abuser chooses to use further tactics like limiting outside involvement by giving the victim a curfew, disabling or regulating phone or internet access, or even canceling appointments, restricting visitors or deliveries, and hiding keys from the victim. It is probably no surprise that the pandemic can amplify these tactics as well, and the abuser can even use COVID-19’s safety protocols as the excuse for this abusive behavior.
Again, while it is easier now more than ever for an abuser to make a victim feel guilty for wanting social connection and support outside of their abusive household, everyone has a right to relationships where they feel safe and respected, and there are many options for someone to regain healthy connection and support, even if most of their network has been limited. Especially if someone’s situation has escalated to the point where they think their abuser may be tracking their devices, an option could be to obtain a pay-as-you-go phone to potentially keep in contact with outside family and friends without their abuser knowing. Another option could be establishing a confidential mailing address to be able to receive deliveries or even put on things like court documents or housing applications that the victim does not want their abuser to know about. This could be done by using a family member, friend, or even neighbor’s address, or opening a P.O. box in their name only. If someone is isolating someone else by cutting off access to finances, one way that we have seen victims slowly start to save their own money is to get small amounts of cash back at grocery stores, so that the abuser only sees that they went grocery shopping when they are looking at bank statements. While these are just a few strategies, our Court Advocates can assist someone in an isolated situation by going over a more comprehensive and personal guide to safety planning. For more information, call our Court Advocacy direct extension at 208-343-3688 ext. 0200, or our 24-hour hotline at 208-343-7025.
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