Social Isolation Increases Risk of Domestic Violence for At-Risk Families

Here’s How You Can Help. 

As more states and municipalities mandate stay-at-home orders to flatten the COVID-19 curve, many families face an increased risk of domestic violence. Families already stressed by financial uncertainty, job layoffs, and substance use disorder, struggle with increased tension and pressure while confined together in the home, according to Pamela Cornwell, clinical director for Saint Francis Ministries. News that both alcohol and gun sales have increased significantly since the pandemic began only adds to the danger that vulnerable family members might face while confined to the home. An increase in calls to shelters already cash-strapped and at capacity, means many victims of domestic violence also have limited options for seeking safety.

“This could be increasing the violence potential as the tensions increase,” said Cornwell. “So, it will be important for everyone to be vigilant and to not be afraid to reach out to anyone you may have concerns about during this time.”  

To help those potentially dealing with domestic violence, Cornwell offers the following suggestions:

  • Reach out by phone and social media. Discuss how and when you should communicate. In some cases, you may just have to wait for the other person to contact you, since (s)he will know when it’s safe. Set up a code word or phrase that indicates it’s time to call 911.  
  • Make sure anyone you’re concerned about has access to accurate information about COVID-19.  Perpetrators of domestic violence are all about control. They could use misinformation as a control tactic. 
  • If you’re a victim of abuse, create a safety plan, review it often, and be prepared to implement it at a moment’s notice. If you need to share it with a friend, do so. During COVID-19, we can shelter-in-place anywhere. You do not have to stay in your home if it is not safe.  

Every state has an organization that operates as a clearinghouse for information and resources for those dealing with domestic violence. Most provide a crisis hotline that’s available 24/7. Below are hotlines in the states in which Saint Francis offers services: 


Oklahoma – 

Nebraska – 

Texas – 

Arkansas – 

You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online here or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Advocates, speaking more than 200 languages, are available live 24/7. All calls are free and confidential.  

“It’s important to know that you are not alone, even in the midst of this pandemic,” said Cornwell. “If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911. The police are still responding to crisis calls. Help is available.” 

Shane Schneider is Saint Francis Ministries’ Senior Copywriter 

Picture of Beth Cormack
Beth Cormack

Beth is the project manager for the Saint Francis Ministries Marketing and Communications team.

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