Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

The Pandemic and Intimate Partner Violence

“This pandemic has reinforced important truths: inequities related to social determinants of health are magnified during a crisis and sheltering in place does not inflict equivalent hardship on all people.  Stay-at-home orders, intended to protect the public and prevent widespread infection, left many IPV victims trapped with their abusers”. New England Journal of Medicine – 12/10/20

It is called a “Shadow Pandemic”, and a “Pandemic within a Pandemic”.  It affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men, and leaves no culture, race, gender, or sexual orientation unscathed.  Wealthy or not, religious or not, it is a shared crisis.  The Coronavirus pandemic and Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV, are intertwined in an unexpected way.

“IPV is defined as physical or sexual violence, stalking or psychological aggression displayed by a romantic partner including current, former or dating partners.” Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 10/9/20


Individuals living with abusive partners in our pre Covid-19 world may have been “seen” during regular interactions.  In the course of a medical examination, a visit with friends, a meeting with a schoolteacher, a community event, or a church service, incidents of IPV may have been noticed and even discussed. But with the closure of businesses, fear of infecting loved ones outside the home, schools going virtual, and events being cancelled, individuals enduring IPV are isolated with no outlet for help.

The CDC’s recommendations for ways to prevent IPV are substantial and community based.  Each one is proactive and helpful in a world without Covid-19.  The recommendations include:

  • Healthy relationship programs for couples
  • Family-based programs
  • Strengthen work-family supports
  • Housing programs

But, these guidelines require a working society and one that allows personal interaction.  And, social distancing and self-isolation have all but shut down the options that one might have to facilitate escape from an abuser.


In addition, as lockdowns become widespread, these “invisible victims” have become trapped in the home due to financial distress.  Abusers often use money as a tool to control the victim.  The fear and helplessness that financial problems cause ensnare the individuals with their abusive partner.  Unemployment and the lack of financial independence create a situation from which there seems no exit; there is not enough money to support two homes, or the victim may not have access to the checking account or credit cards.  In fact, the hardest hit are those that are financially dependent.


Organizations such as the Salvation ArmyHelen Ross McNabb,  YWCA, and Family Justice Center, and others offer resources and sheltering information.  They offer ways to move forward in safety.  Making a personal safety plan is universally recommended .  There are advocates available to create individual plans if one is needed.  And, there are things that individuals can still do, say the advocates at the Family Justice Center, like video chat with friends, or go out side in the yard with the kids, or find an in-home project that will keep you apart from your abuser.  


The fear of leaving home and venturing into a public area for shelter is understandable.  It increase the chances of being infected with the virus.  And, oftentimes, when faced with enduring the abuse or potential infection, suffering the abuse may seem less harmful.  But those involved in advocating, counseling and directing at these organizations, encourage individuals to reach out to them.  Friends and family members can help too.  Talk openly with loved ones, take note and do not place blame on them, be involved in helping put together the personal safety plan, and, if possible, offer a safe place to come to.   See other resources below and have these numbers available:

National Domestic Violence Hotline  Family Crisis Center