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Feature Article

Help Is Available When "Staying Home" Isn't Safe

With a “stay home” order from the governor of Oregon currently in place, many people are faced with being at home in a domestic abuse situation.

“The stress of facing the current pandemic and other factors like the loss of a job can make an already tenuous home situation much worse,” said Amie Keys, RN, from Sarah’s Place, a regional sexual assault examination center located at Samaritan Albany General Hospital.  

Resources continue to be available during the “stay home” order. If you or someone you know is in an unsafe home situation, advocacy centers are available for free and confidential support. Call 9-1-1 if needed.

Warning Signs

“Warning signs of domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence, are often not present or are very subtle,” said Keys. “As the relationship develops or during times of uncertainty like what we are experiencing now, abusive behavior can escalate to life-threatening levels.”

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, in addition to physical or sexual violence, some signs of domestic abuse are a partner whose behaviors include:

  • Coercion and threats to force certain behavior in the victim.
  • Intimidation to make the victim feel afraid.
  • Emotional abuse to make the victim feel bad or guilty.
  • Isolation so the victim can’t see friends or family.
  • Minimizing, denying or blaming the abuse on the victim.
  • Using children in a manipulative way.
  • Economic abuse that controls the victim’s access to money.

Domestic violence can occur to any gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation between people who are married, living together or dating.

Protect Yourself

If you feel unsafe at home, below are some recommendations to protect yourself.

  • If possible, have a phone accessible at all times. If your life is in danger, call 9-1-1. If you can travel to an advocacy center, law enforcement or Sarah’s Place, these locations have “9-1-1 only” phones available. No money is required to use the phones and you will be able to talk safely and privately.
  • Teach children to stay safe and not interfere if violence is occurring between you and your partner. Establish a code word to let them know if they should get help.
  • Set up a standing call with a friend or relative while you are at home. Establish a code phrase to signal an emergency.
  • Know which areas of the house have no weapons and multiple ways to escape. If you feel an argument escalating, try to move to that area.
  • Don’t wear scarves or long jewelry that can be used to strangle you.
  • If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.

Safety for Children

Children who are home from school are also at risk of becoming victims of abuse. Without regular contact with teachers and friends, there is often no one who can help them.

For children who receive a bagged lunch or meal delivery during the week, workers can help by looking for signs of abuse. Neighbors, friends and family can check in with children regularly to make sure they are safe. If you suspect child abuse, call 9-1-1 or the statewide 24-hour child abuse hotline at 1-855-503-7233.

Get Help

“Unfortunately the process of getting help can be dangerous for victims of domestic abuse,” said Keys. “Remember to stay safe and when you can, reach out to an advocacy center or law enforcement for support if you feel scared or threatened.”

If you are a victim of sexual assault, get confidential help at Sarah’s Place at Samaritan Albany General Hospital, or any emergency department near you.