When Home Isn’t Safe: COVID-19 and Interpersonal Violence

What if home is the place I fear most?

Less three months ago, the term “social distancing” didn’t exist in the way it does today. Less than two months ago, if you would have told us that we would be encouraged to stay in our homes for weeks on end because of a life-threatening pandemic and that every event, outing in the community, and classes as we know them at the university would completely change, we would have never believed you. It feels as though the nation has come to an unthinkable halt.

Staying at home in comfy clothing all day honestly sounds like a nice break from the everyday routine and having to dress appropriately for class/work/internships/other commitments. That is, until we start to consider those who do not have safe living conditions as a result of domestic violence. Folks who are experiencing or have experienced power-based personal violence (stalking, dating/domestic violence, sexual assault) might be feeling increased isolation and loss of control during this time where answers are limited and the advice to stay home is non-negotiable.

When power and control are the root causes of violence, and isolation is a key tactic of abuse, this time can be triggering for folks who already have experienced these things at the hands of an abuser. Even more, some folks who are being encouraged to stay home might currently be in an abusive relationship with a domestic partner, roommate, family member, or other person at their home. For this reason, home is not always the safest place for all of our community members.

While this is our reality and is important to name, Safe Harbor advocates are working to support members of our community who are experiencing power-based personal violence during this time. We have already seen an increase in the number of dating and domestic violence cases reported since social distancing has been encouraged and become the new normal.

You are not alone. The situation you are in is not your fault and you do not deserve it.

Safe Harbor is working to provide resources remotely and support Auburn University students, faculty, and staff as best we can during this time. Here are some resources, divided up by university, local community, and national resources.


University Resources:

Safe Harbor: 24/7, free, and confidential advocacy for anyone who has experienced power-based personal violence at any time. We can provide support by email, phone, and secure video chat. We also serve those who are supporting a loved one who has experienced power-based personal violence.

· Crisis line: 334-844-7233

Student Counseling & Psychological Services: Currently offering phone consults Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm.

· Phone number: 334-844-5123.

Local Community Resources:

Rape Counselors of East Alabama (RCEA):


Domestic Violence Intervention Center (DVIC)


National Resources:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 24/7, confidential and free

· 1-800-799-7233 (and through chat)

The Trans LifeLine for peer support for trans folks 9am-3am CT:

· 1-877-565-8860

· This hotline is staffed exclusively by trans operators is the only crisis line with a policy against non-consensual active rescue.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network):

· 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)

· (Chat option: · Chat option in Spanish:

Love is Respect (National Dating Abuse Helpline)

· 9474-331-866-1

· TTY 8453-331-866-1

· Text “loveis” to 22522

· Chat: on main page

National Parent Helpline

· 1-855-427-2736

· Monday -Friday 12 pm to 9 am CT emotional support and advocacy for parents

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

· 1-800-273-8255

· Spanish: 1-888-628-9454

· Deaf + Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889

· Chat: on main page

In addition to resources, safety planning to the best of your ability during a time of social distancing can be a good idea. If home is not a safe place for you, are there other friends or family you could stay with during this time? Consider reaching out to these people to make a plan:

A trusted friend, co-worker, or family member who could check in with you about your safety and support your needs. If you need help identifying support people in your life, take a look at the pod mapping worksheet from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective.

· Are you connected with close friends or family members of the person who is hurting you? Are they aware of what is happening or are they a safe person to reach out to? Consider connecting with them now in case you need someone to help you in an emergency if you feel they are a safe and trusted person.

· Make a list of places you do have access to if needed. This will likely be more limited than usual right now. Examples might include a local park, going to the grocery store to get a break or make phone calls/send emails if possible, walking outside, a trusted friend’s place.

· A list of things you enjoy doing inside and coping activities you can do to self-soothe during this time of uncertainty and unsafe living conditions.

· Select 1-2 resources listed above, memorize the phone numbers, in case you need them later.

Please know that you are not alone in this. We are here to support you with ay violence you may be experiencing. This situation is not your fault and you are worthy of and entitled to a safe and healthy living situation. If you have needs yourself or are looking out for a friend, please take the proactive step of reaching out to any of these resources.

This article was adapted from “When Home Isn’t Safe: COVID-19 and Interpersonal Violence”, a post from the Healthy Heels blog at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Last modified: 04/03/2020