by Teresia Smith
With the Covid-19 pandemic causing the world to live under a form of quarantine, people are feeling isolated, lonely and depressed.
Limited contact with friends and loved ones has made many feel unimportant and invisible. A large number of people have lost income due to businesses shuttering, so they have no idea how they will pay for their needs. Food insecurity has hit families that have never had to worry before, and they do not have access to quality food. Fear over being unable to find basic supplies, such as toilet paper, and not knowing what challenge tomorrow may hold has caused anxiety for many. Experiencing this crisis firsthand may give us a glimpse into the everyday life of a domestic violence victim.
Many times, a domestic violence victim has been isolated from their friends and family as the perpetrator uses separation as a means of control. Being detached, the victim feels lonely, depressed and unimportant. Perpetrators know it is easier to control someone who feels they have nowhere to turn. If you aren’t seeing your friends and family, who will notice the bruises or black eyes from a physical assault?
Who will notice your personality change as you turn into a shell of the person you once were, from verbal and emotional abuse? A large majority of domestic violence victims are not given the option to work a job and have no access to income. They have no way of purchasing supplies or food. With no family or friends to rely on, no income to use and having being torn down over time, it is easy to see why many domestic violence victims stay.
What can make a difference – not only for those of us living six feet apart during the pandemic but also for domestic violence victims who try to start over? One key component is social support. Social support is a network of family and friends that you can turn to in a time of need. Whether it is a crisis, such as domestic violence, a sexual assault or just a need to spend time with those who care about you, these relationships are critical in how we function in our day-to-day life. Mental health experts often point to the importance of having a strong social support network. Whenever someone is going through a crisis, experts will appeal to clients to lean on their loved ones for support. Those relationships are what build us up during times of crisis and stress and give us the strength we need to continue on, survive and thrive. Not only do you rely on your support system, but that relationship is a two-way street. There’s a catchphrase, “find your tribe,” and it’s true. Finding those you connect with can be life-changing. Suddenly, you fit in, have shared interests, and it can reaffirm who you are and that you are not alone.
Poor social support has been linked to depression. Loneliness has been shown to increase the risk of depression, suicide, alcohol, drug use and cardiovascular disease. Social support can come in many forms. It might be as simple as helping someone who is ill on a short-term basis with basic tasks, offering financial assistance or a ride to someone with an immediate need. It could also be much more involved, such as sitting with someone who has experienced trauma and allowing them to talk, being there for someone who is grieving or even helping a domestic violence survivor relocate. It simply involves providing care, empathy and concern for someone in need.
As you form these social supports, they can grow to form relationships and help you feel you are part of a community. Being accepted into a social community can serve as a safeguard against damaging behaviors as you face hardships. Participation in social groups has a positive influence, often influencing whether people eat a healthy diet, exercise, smoke, drink or use illegal substances. It also can help people to cope with stress. Stress has been shown to have serious health consequences.
Being surrounded by people who are caring and supportive helps us to see ourselves as being more capable of dealing with the stresses that life brings. Having a social community can help people to stay motivated when trying to achieve their goals.. Weight-loss groups, stop-smoking groups and addiction groups have found that it helps to connect with people who are experiencing similar feelings as they strive to reach similar goals, and talking with them can be a source of support, understanding and motivation.
Everyone should assess their relationships. Do you have enough social support? Would you benefit from deepening your current relationships? Are you giving to those relationships or only taking? Could you use some new social contacts or a social community? You might decide to get more engaged in giving and getting emotional support, and it could greatly improve the quality of your life.
Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. We offer crisis counseling, support groups, court advocacy, SANE nurse services, safety planning and more. You may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.