A guide to support victims of domestic abuse survive isolation with their abuser in this COVID-19 pandemic.
If you know anyone that could benefit from this support, please share this article with them as discreetly as possible. This may be verbally over the phone at a time you are sure their abuser cannot hear you.
If you yourself are a victim, and would like to join a private Facebook group for community during this tough time, please follow the link below.
This current pandemic has caused exponential ripples through the entire world. Leaving millions of people stranded, grieving, terrified and alone.
The media have highlighted a number of vulnerable categories – the elderly, those with respiratory problems, cancer patients, pregnant women, organ transplant recipients – that are increasingly susceptible to medical complications caused by COVID-19.
But what about those that are vulnerable in other ways?
Due to the impending future of social-isolation and home-quarantining, there will be an exorbitant number of people confined to their homes. And unfortunately, not everyone has a safe home life.
Really, this article will apply to anyone who has an uncomfortable home life and is now subject to isolation within that unfavourable atmosphere, but as a vulnerable category close to my heart, I will be focusing on victims of domestic abuse.
For victims of domestic abuse, the school run and the supermarket shop were often their saving grace moments of freedom from their abuse. Their alone time at home while their partner went to work was their haven through their living nightmares.
But now, with the global situation surrounding COVID-19, there is no safe space left for them. They are isolated at home, with their abusers. Tensions rising. Atmospheres getting more and more pressurised by the second. What will be the outcome for these victims in the upcoming months?
As a victim of domestic abuse, you may now be in complete isolation with your abuser 24/7.
What were once your daily means of escape – the school run, popping to the shops, a cup of tea with a friend – are now all gone.
Not only have you lost these small moments of release, but you now have increased one on one time with your abuser and no respite.
Understandably, tensions will begin to rise in the most loving of homes, so how will things unfold in abusive ones?
How will abusers respond if they have no-where to go to cool off? No gym time to release that frustration? No work to take their focus away from their victims?
And how will abuse victims fare without their human connections? Their external support networks? Their alone time?
According to the UK government, there are approximately 2.4 million victims of domestic abuse each year of people aged 16-74 (two thirds of which are women) in the UK alone. This equates to 200,000 victims every month, over 46,000 each week, and more than 6,500 every single day.
With the current global panic as it is, and household tensions rising, these figures could easily rise.
For victims of domestic abuse, I have outlined a few key areas you can focus on to try and survive this impending isolation.
And for those of you reading this that are fortunate enough to have loving homes to ride out this pandemic, take a moment to think about the people in your life that might not have this luxury. Who could you reach out to provide a supportive ear?
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." - Vivian Greene
Understanding your abuser
By understanding your abusive partner a little better, you will conjure up some compassion for them and their own suffering.
This can lead to an understanding which may potentially ease your own pain.
The one and only reason that people abuse other people, is because they themselves are in a deep amount of pain that they don’t understand or know what to do with.
Abusers are insecure, unconfident, scared, lonely and full of pain and hatred. And this will only be magnified in the current pandemic.
They may never have received true unconditional love themselves, nor have they ever had a healthy outlet for their emotions, in particular, their anger.
They abuse because they hate.
And this will be in extremes through this current global crisis.
But remember, this doesn’t make it right.
Just because they are in pain themselves, does not give them the right to spread that pain and be the cause of yours.
I am not telling you this so you can feel sympathy towards your abuser, but so you can feel empathy towards them and understand why they became what they are.
Hopefully, this will lead to feeling compassionate towards their situation, which will likely make it easier for you to feel compassionate towards yourself as well. Increasing the chances of you being able to forgive them, and yourself, in the future.
A warning though, don’t become so compassionate and understanding that you create an opening for the abuse to worsen. You must protect yourself first.
By this I mean both physically and emotionally, the physical being fairly obvious.
In the emotional sense, I mean not to absorb your abusive partner’s negativity and hatred. Nor is it wise to reflect this energy back at them, as this could aggravate them and lead to further consequences for yourself, and any children.
Instead, we want to try and transform this energy with love and compassion.
And if this doesn’t work, I have two exercises for you to try:
Exercise 1: Visualisation - cloak of protection
In this exercise you are going to use your imagination to make yourself a protection cloak. Firstly, you must pick your material. What colour is it? What fabric is it made from? Are the inside and outside the same colour and fabric, or are they different? Does it have a hood? If so, how is the hood fastened around your neck? Is it tied, or buckled, or is there an ornate broach or clasp used to hold it in place? How long is your cloak? Does it drag behind you on the floor or does it just touch the ground? Or perhaps it hangs just above the floor so it doesn’t get dirty. Is there any trimming to its edges? Does it have any embroidery or patterns on it? Are there pockets? Once you have finished the physical design of your cloak, you need to coat it in a thick layer of unconditional love. Visualise this love as a beam of white light pouring down from the heavens and filling your cloak like magic.
The reason we create the cloak in such detail, is it makes it easier to instantly imagine each time we need it. We can then either call upon it in times of need, or put it on in anticipation of that need. You might want to put it on each morning when you wake up; on your way home from work (if you are still working); or just before your abusive partner arrives home (if they are still working). Either way, to put it on, simply close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine throwing it around your shoulders, fastening it under your chin, and feeling the material gently settle around your body. If you have the time and privacy you could even physically act this out. If not, because you are doing it instantly, and perhaps in the company of your abusive partner or others, you can just imagine this in your head. It will only take a second of your time and no-one will notice.
If you struggle with this type of visualisation, I have created a Guided Meditation available on my website or YouTube.
Exercise 2: Carrying a protection amulet
If you don’t like the idea of creating a virtual cloak of protection, and you prefer having a physical representation of protection, then there are other things you can use instead to create a protection amulet. Crystals make great amulets as they hold very potent healing energies. Recommended crystals for abuse of any kind are chrysocolla, desert rose, jade, mangano or pink calcite, orange calcite, rose quartz and amazonite. Alternatively, recommended crystals for protection against malice, bullying or attack of any kind are amazonite, black tourmaline, obsidian, hawk or falcon’s eye, haematite, lapis lazuli, red jasper, smoky quartz and turquoise. Source: “The New Crystal Bible”, Cassandra Eason (2010).
Jewellery can be used as an amulet as your piece of jewellery can have a crystal or crystals as part of it, but can also be sentimental and precious in other ways. They are also more convenient to carry with you, although crystals are easy enough to put in a pocket or purse. I once carried a small orange carnelian crystal in my knickers for a week to help me heal from sexual trauma (p.s. it worked!). Just don’t forget to cleanse your crystals regularly.
If exercises such as these are not something you resonate with, just ask yourself “What’s the harm?”. It may or may not help, but if you don’t try, it definitely won’t. At this point, every little helps, right?
The main piece of advice I can give anyone in an abusive relationship is to find something that gives you joy.
Just one thing.
One thing that you can do easily that your partner can’t stop or prevent. Something unassuming and innocent.
Whether it’s focusing on the children you love so deeply; throwing yourself into learning a new skill; or simply reading and painting in a quiet corner of your home.
Escapism is another way you can find peace amongst the madness.
Reading is a great way to escape to another world, be someone else, be somewhere else.
For women, I would also recommend finding fictional books with strong female leads. This way you will be subconsciously implanting strength, willpower and courage into what could otherwise be a beaten and hopeless mind.
Finding joy in the space in between the yelling and cowering is crucial to staying sane while surrounded by all the insanity.
It will provide you with glimmers of hope and light, in what is otherwise a bleak and miserable world.
Below are a few examples of activities that might spark a bit of joy for you:
- Something relaxing – meditating, reading, self-massage
- Some form of exercise – yoga, online exercise classes, hula hooping (!)
- Something crafty – painting, drawing, mindfulness colouring books
- Escapism – reading, gaming, writing
- Nature & fresh air – garden, balcony, early morning walks (isolation permitting)
I would recommend writing a list of all the things you can do to bring joy to your life and keep it somewhere close by – maybe in your purse, pocket or handbag.
That way, every time you get a moment to yourself, to seek joy, you have a ready-made list to choose from without having to think.
Nature & Fresh Air
Although this is particularly difficult, it is even more important during these periods of isolation.
If you have the luxury of a garden right now you are winning at life. Remember to use it! Get outside EVERY SINGLE DAY. Bury your feet in the grass and stick your face in some flowers!
If you don’t have a garden but you have access to a balcony or courtyard space then the same applies – use it! Get outside and breathe in that fresh air for a minimum of 5 minutes.
If you don’t have access to a private outside space then remember that the government have sanctioned one outing per day for outside exercise and a walk in the park could be the difference between surviving and succumbing to misery.
As everyone knows, exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins are exactly what you need right now to feel good. There were plenty of online exercise classes before COVID-19 and now the numbers are increasing daily.
Put some sort of routine in place and get the whole family involved if you can. Check out Google, YouTube and Facebook for yoga, Pilates, Zumba, toning and more.
And as previously mentioned, you are still allowed to leave your house for exercise in the parks etc.
Learn Something New
For most of you I’m sure there is a skill that you have always wanted to learn but never felt like you had the time – well now there is nothing but time!
And these days, there’s a YouTube tutorial for everything!
- Learn a language – the Duolingo is a great free app for this
- Learn to knit, sew or crochet
- Take an online course in accountancy, teaching English or astrology – whatever floats you boat
- Learn to bake – if you can find eggs!
Now this will require a wee bit of resourcefulness in times of isolation. The easiest option I can think of for getting alone time in your own home is by having a bath.
Additionally, if you take up meditation, this can be a great excuse to lay down for half an hour undisturbed.
In order to secure your alone time, you might have to occupy the other members of your household with games, snacks and movies to ensure you are not disturbed.
Abusers often have a short temper and low patience, supporting them in keeping busy can be one of the most effective ways in reducing tensions and keeping you and your family safe.
Try and maintain a sense of routine and find activities to keep the household busy during these tense times.
Find fun games to play, feel-good movies, and any sports that they could play or that are still being shown on TV. Encourage them to do the above suggestions: find some joy, learn a skill, exercise and spend time in nature.
This is probably the most effective way in avoiding unnecessary conflict during this time. A bored and frustrated person is much more likely to become aggressive and abusive than a happy, busy one.
Managing this can be very stressful so utilise the resources available to you online and in groups. Reach out and ask others what they are doing to keep busy.
It is imperative in an abusive relationship to maintain a support network, and now more than ever.
We are so so fortunate to live in a time when we can communicate with anyone around the world at the push of a button – and even see their face! Take full advantage of this where possible.
And if you don’t have a support network or strong community around you, join our Facebook community with other people in similar situations to support each other through this time.
I have intentionally kept the name of the group non-specific to abuse to aid in discretion.
Finding Your Dream
One day, this nightmare will be over and we will be able to pick up the pieces of our lives, and the world, and get back to it. Why not spend some of this isolated time finding your dream?
Look deep within you and find a dream that fills your heart with excitement and hope.
Ensure it is somewhere between fairly obtainable and nearly impossible. Then hold onto it and never let it go. This will be your salvation.
This will be the happiness you hold onto in the darkest of your hours. When you are beaten. When you are raped. When you are crushed and broken.
Remember your dream.
This is also another form of escapism. Imagining you are somewhere else, and someone else, can give you strength to carry on.
It can also provide you with a future that you currently don’t have. Once you have been all consumed by your abusive nightmare, and the darkness has surrounded you, it can be near impossible to imagine a future at all, let alone one that has any spark of hope and joy in it.
Remember what life could be like one day. If you just keep breathing.
If there are days when all you manage to do is to just keep breathing, that is good enough.
If there are days when you have no more energy left to fight.
To hope. To dream.
Then just breathe.
As long as we breathe, we are still alive to fight another day.
When we stop breathing, they win.
Never. Let. Them. Win.
And if we have a little more to give, then learn to breathe consciously.
The breath is the only thing standing in between a negative state of mind and a positive one.
You are always one breath away from peace. One breath away from OK.
At times, this will be easier said than done. But practise makes perfect. If we return to the breath, we return to ourselves, to our centre.
Conscious Breathing Exercise
Close your eyes, place one hand gently on your stomach/womb, and lay the other gently over your heart. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, and exhale fully and completely through the mouth for a count of 8.
On the in breath, breathe in feelings of peace, joy and strength; and on the out breathe, breathe out your fears, your worries and your pain. Do this at least three times.
For a Guided Breathing Exercise please visit my website or YouTube channel below.
The Bare Necessities
Once you have mastered the art of conscious breathing, and you feel like taking care of yourself a little better, remember the bare necessities – food, water, sleep.
In order for you to stay strong enough to keep going, to endure the abuse, and to have any hope of getting out, you must look after yourself.
Additionally, it is wise to remember that it is better to eat something unhealthy than nothing at all.
Calories are what give us energy. Therefore, as long as you are eating something, that is good enough for now.
In an ideal world the average male needs to consume 2000-2500 calories per day, and 1500-2000 calories for the average woman.
It is also imperative that you keep drinking (and I don’t mean alcohol!).
On average, humans should drink approximately 1-2 litres per day depending on the climate you live in and your age, weight, health, activity levels etc.
Furthermore, sleep is a crucial part of your daily life that you might sometimes overlook.
Sleep is essential in processing your day and preparing for the following one to come.
The average person requires 6-8 hours’ sleep per day in order to function at their best.
Imagine how much harder it will be to deal with your life, and your abusive relationship, if you have not had enough sleep time to process it all.
Think about it like this, the more time you spend asleep, the less time you have to spend being insulted or beaten – win!
During my abusive relationship my body decided it wanted to sleep 9-11 hours a day just so I didn’t have to face my life!
Moreover, the less sleep you have, the less patience you will be able to hold onto. Therefore, you are more likely to snap and answer back, leading to further consequences.
When we are sleep deprived, we are more sensitive, our immune system is lowered, and our sanity becomes questionable. These are definitely things you want to avoid as far as possible in normal life, let alone while isolated in an abusive situation.
If you are tired and sleep deprived, then it will be increasingly harder for you to play the part of an amenable and loving partner.
Playing the Part
If your abusive situation requires you to behave a certain way – be weak, submissive, amenable – that doesn’t mean you have to actually become like this.
Act the part.
To live in this situation doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the situation. You don’t have to be small and weak inside.
You can be strong and courageous; you can save this for the moments in which you can act, in which you can get out.
You can pretend to them they have broken you, that you are submissive and vulnerable. But inside you know that you are none of those things.
That you are an eternal being with love and courage that no-one can take away from you.
Just be careful if you are in a physically abusive relationship you must be cautious to not let the strong parts of you out until you have prepared to leave otherwise you could be putting yourself in unnecessary danger. Protect yourself (and any children) first.
Stop Deluding Yourself & Adapt
Stop telling yourself they will change, that things will be different this time. That they do really love you and they mean well. That they only did it because of something you did.
You need to remove all of these delusions and learn to adapt.
Learn to live in the situation you are in until you find a time when you can get out.
These delusions can be the difference between someone who will get out and someone who will be in it for life.
I was quite lucky with my situation. I was aware very early on in my abusive relationship that he would never change and this relationship was something that I needed to get out of.
That didn’t necessarily mean it was easy and quick for me to get out though. It took me about 3-6 months to really realise what situation I had got myself into, and a further 18 months before I managed to get out.
Still, this is considerably shorter than some of the decades-long relationships I have witnessed over the years.
My point is that once I made those realisations and detached myself from the hopes that one day we would live happily ever after, I no longer loved him.
This was the most powerful gift I could have been given at the time. Once I was no longer emotionally involved, I could numb myself to his behaviours, his threats, his nasty words.
Obviously, it was a little harder to detach from any of the physical pain he caused me, but to be honest, I found the emotional and psychological torment just as painful, if not more so at times.
Send a Letter to God
Most people in an abusive relationship are likely to have not told anyone what is happening to them.
If you are able to find just one person you feel able to confide in, this will make a world of difference.
However, if like most victims, you are too scared, ashamed or embarrassed to talk to anyone in person, try writing your thoughts and feelings down in a letter.
Exercise: Send a letter to God
If there is no person you are able to speak to then try speaking with God or whatever higher power you might believe in – even if it’s a past loved one or your dog! Even if you don’t necessarily believe in one great power, give it a go, it can’t hurt (as long as your abusive partner can’t overhear you). If you don’t like this idea, then try writing your feelings down in a letter. And don’t worry about your abusive partner finding it, with this method you won’t be keeping the letter. Once you have completed your letter, allow the elements to carry it away by burning it, burying it, or sending it down a river. This way, your abusive partner will never see it.
The more your feelings are kept inside, the more detrimental effects they will have on your long term physical and mental health. Alternatively, you can always join the Facebook support community, or contact me directly and tell me of your experiences, your thoughts and feelings.
Count your Blessings
Although every situation will be different, no matter how bad things get, there are always blessings to be found.
So find them, and send gratitude to the world for their presence in your life.
If you are isolated at home with your partner, be grateful for the home that you are isolated in.
If you have children, be grateful for them. Likewise, be grateful for any friends, family members or other supportive individuals in your life.
Be grateful for the food in your cupboards, your central heating and the water in your taps. Be grateful for the bath, shower and toilet you have access to. Be grateful for your bed, sofa, television, internet. Be grateful for the flowers in your garden and the garden itself. Be grateful for the sunshine, the rain, the birds and the bees.
And be grateful for yourself. For all the wonderful things your mind and body do for you, without pause or hesitation.
Find your blessings and count them everyday. No matter the number, no matter how big or small.
One of the most radical and rebellious acts you can take as a victim of abuse, is that of self-love.
Loving yourself is the biggest f-you to your abuser that you could ever do.
Loving yourself can be as simple an act as taking care of your body; eating nourishing and healthy foods; getting the sleep you need.
Simply knowing and acknowledging that you are a glorious being worthy of love and appreciation could be enough.
If you would like to experience a guided meditation for self-love and appreciation, please follow the links below.
I offer 1-1 sessions online for people who feel they would benefit from some further support. Please don’t let finances stand between you and the support you need – we can always work something out.
- To Unblock your Chakras
- To Surrender and Release
- To Love and Appreciate yourself
- To Meet your Healing Guides
- To Overcome Obstacles
- To Breathe Deeply and Calm the Mind
- To Make a Cloak of Protection