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Coping with Abuse During the Shelter in Place

If your partner is violent, and you are able to do so, please leave them, reach out to someone(s) you trust, and shelter in place elsewhere. Additional resources can be found at the end of this article.

If you are unable to leave or staying in place is the best decision for you perhaps some of this article will be helpful to you.

In the best domestic situation, a shelter in place is stressful. In an abusive relationship it can be dangerous. If you are sheltering with your abuser, I understand that you have your reasons be it children, pets, lack of resources, isolation, etc.

No matter the reason(s) the goal is going to be for you to survive this and there isn’t going to be an easy answer to this. If you are reading this, I believe in your strength; you can do this!

1. Remember this isn’t your fault.

You didn’t cause them to abuse you. You are not to blame for their choices, actions, or behaviors.

2. Seek someone else to stay with during the shelter in place if possible.

If you are able to, make an excuse to stay with a family member or friend. Maybe they need help getting supplies, child care, or to be taken care of. If you are caring for someone else, it gives you an opening to stay with them for their safety and to reduce the exposure of going between your residence and theirs.

3. Reach out to a people you trust.

Have a person that you talk to on a regular basis that understands your situation. Daily or weekly. You can also call one of the hotlines listed below. A crisis counselor can listen to you, connect you with resources, and help you create a safety plan.

4. While you must shelter in place, make a plan to leave if you absolutely need to for your safety. Make sure your phone is charged, keep your walking shoes, wallet, keys, and jacket in a hidden place that you will remember and be able to grab and go. If you end up needing to flee you might not be thinking clearly due to adrenaline and won’t remember where they all are if scattered. I understand that since your abuser is also sheltering with you doing all this will be hard. If necessary be prepared to leave without everything you planned on taking with you. Your life is more important that items.

5. Do not escalate situations with the abuser.

Do not try to explain yourself because it may cause the situation to get violent more quickly. They may make a lot of inaccurate “you” statements, citing things you have done wrong or how you have wronged them. Let them think their lies about you, at least while you are stuck at home with them.

Much like not escalating a fight by trying to explain yourself do not try to resolve the fight by trying to get them to see your perspective. It is another escalation risk.

Try to avoid letting the abuser pull you into back into the fight. They might do so with more manipulative “you” statements such as “you don’t care”, “you’re weak”, “this is your fault”, etc. Remember, it isn’t you that is the problem – it’s them. Walk away when/if you can.

6. Do not retaliate.

The abuser may try to provoke you. If you retaliate it can result in you being portrayed as the abuser, being removed from your home, or arrested.

7. Try to avoid being in parts of the residence that can trap you.

When you sense that a fight is about to start avoid being caught in a place that you are cornered.

8. Know their Red Flags

Stay alert for signs and clues that the abuser is getting upset.

9. Self-care

You are the best judge of what you can do in your circumstances in regards to self-care.

Some things you may be able to do are:

  • Talk to a friend or relative.

  • Set boundaries for yourself where you can – say yes to things to can/want to do (virtual happy hours, game nights, watching something fun like a Broadway broadcast), but say no when you need space for yourself (don’t commit to back to back to back events if you don’t have the energy for it)

  • Meditate – currently the Headspace meditation app is free and a great place to start!

  • Take a bath or relaxing shower. Take you time and use the nice soap or oil, add scented salts or bath bomb, and maybe use a face mask.

  • Take a daily walk around the block.

  • Create a space that is comforting to you. Use scented candles, pillows, blankets, and items that bring you comfort.

  • Mindful physical movements. Do stretches and pay attention to how your muscles feel and any sensations going on in your body.

  • Practice sleep hygiene. Go ready to sleep at the same time every night. No TV or cell phone 30 minutes before you intend to sleep. Make a routine that your body can recognize means bed time. Such as, making a cup of uncaffeinated, herbal tea, reading a book in bed, meditate, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.

This article was written in collaboration with Erica Hungerford

Resources, in Illinois, for you if you are able to reach out to them.

  • Resilience (Formerly RVA, handles sexual abuse in Chicago and surrounding areas): Their offices are closed for in person contact but they are still providing trauma therapy and legal/medical advocacy services remotely. You can contact their office at (312) 443-9603. (Resilience will assist you whether you are male, female, or queer)

  • Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

  • Illinois Coalition against Domestic Violence hotline (877) 863-6338

  • To find a Rape Crisis Center in Illinois:

  • If you are outside of Illinois a place to start can be this list of resources organized by state,

  • If you need a protective order and more information on them please refer to the attached flyer from Cook County below.

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