Vest Solano

Domestic Abuse During Our Pandemic

Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In March and April of last year, it became necessary to impose strict stay-at-home orders help contain the spread of the coronavirus. A team of sociologist led by Alex R. Piquero of the University of Miami, conducted a study featuring a systematic review of multiple studies on domestic violence incidents. They compared the number of incidents before lockdown versus the number of incidents after lockdown restrictions were put in place.

What They Found

  • Based on their review of twelve studies in the United States, most of which were comprised of data from multiple cities, they documented that domestic violence incidents increased 8.1% after pandemic-related lockdown orders were imposed.
  • These studies covered data from crime reports, emergency hotline registries, hospital and health records, and other administrative documentation. This differed from earlier studies that relied exclusively on police calls for service.
  • Specific factors responsible for driving the increase are unclear, but it is believed that the lockdowns and pandemic-related economic impacts likely intensified factors that are typically associated with potential domestic violence causes. This includes influences such as:
  • Increased unemployment, especially for male head-of-household families
  • The stress to provide childcare and homeschooling with limited options for assistance
  • New or increased financial insecurity
  • Negative coping strategies that were engaged in or worsened due to both financial and emotional stress of quarantine. This includes alcohol and substance abuse
  • Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic left parents and children isolated in their homes thereby cutting families off from friends, neighbors, co-workers, support services and others who might have reported signs of abuse and violence. and who could have potentially helped mitigate or intervene when domestic abuse incidents occurred.

Download the entire report HERE.

A separate report from the National Commission Criminal Justice (CCJ) showed that there was a 9.7% increase in domestic violence calls for service during March and April, that started even before state-level stay-at-home mandates began. Extrapolating that study nationally, the researchers estimated that there were approximately 1,330 more domestic violence calls for service per day across the U.S. during the time period. In Solano County, the incidents of domestic violence increased over 200% during the pandemic.

Help is Here

These factors were the driving force behind the establishment of VEST, the Victims Empowerment Support Team. We understand the immediate and longer term impacts on domestic abuse and sexual assault that spawned from the pandemic. We want you to know there is someone to turn to for pandemic related or other domestic violence concerns. We want you to know that Help is Here.

To contact VEST, CLICK HERE or call 707-247-5521 for help, or to volunteer time or other types of support.

To make a tangible step to help in the fight against domestic violence, CLICK HERE to donate.

Seeing the Signs : Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Part 2

In a previous blog post, we discussed the signs that indicate you may be part of an abusive relationship. But even when you, yourself are not being abused, recognizing the signs of abuse is extremely important.

One of the fundamental beliefs at VEST is that Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are social issues that impact more than just the individuals who are need support and protection. The impact of these types of violence is felt by the entire community and has impacts that affect the entire generation.

Therefore, all of us as members of the community, have an obligation to help eliminate as much of this problem as possible. This is for the common good. And as part of that effort, learning to spot the signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship is a vital skill to develop.

Signs That Someone May Be in an Abusive Relationship

Your “Abuse Radar” should go off if a person you know:

  • Appears to be overly worried about pleasing their partner / family member.
  • Are constantly checking in with their partner / family member.
  • Exhibit noticeable personality changes, such as seeing chronic low self-esteem in someone who was previously usually confident.
  • Has a partner / family member who constantly belittles them in public and / or on social media.
  • Never seems to have any money available, even for small things such as going out for coffee.
  • Suddenly loses access to important things like their cars, keys to their home, medicine, etc.
  • Begins skipping-out on work, school, or stop taking their children to childcare – often for no clear or rational reason.
  • Increasingly opts out of group and other social activities.
  • Seems to wear clothes that don’t fit the season, like long sleeves in summer which can cover bruises and other injuries.
  • Are constantly make excuses for injuries, especially if their injuries occur more frequently than you would normally expect.

Of course, you may also be witness to overt instances of abusive behavior, where a person is injured, ridiculed, harassed, abandoned or yelled at by their partner / family member. And abuse is not a one-way street. Women are capable of abusing their male partners as well. Even if they are not as strong as their victims, they can employ tactics such as using weapons, conducting “surprise” attacks or attacking while you are asleep, or threatening or injuring children or your pets.

What You Can Do

The most important thing you can do for a friend you think may be suffering in an abusive relationship is to “be there” for them. Be open to listening to them. Be patient and stay calm. Even if they are exhibiting many of the “self-damaging” behaviors abuse victims use, it is important not to chastise, blame or push them too aggressively to seek help. Don’t participate in any of their misleading or delusional thinking they use to hide the abuse. Simply speak the truth. Explain what you perceive in as factually and non-emotionally manner as possible. And, suggest ways that they may get some help.

If you live in Sonoma County or the surrounding area, encourage them to visit our website or to contact us by emailing us at [email protected] or by calling 707-247-5521.

If you live outside the area, you can direct the potential victim to a local domestic violence agency or have them call the National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or for TTY for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-787-3224.

However, if you feel the abuse victim or anyone close to them is in direct physical danger, please call 911 to get professional assistance as soon as possible. Also, encourage the victim to distance themselves from the abuser immediately.

Lastly, any support you can give to your local domestic abuse and sexual assault support agency will be hugely appreciated and deeply impactful. We encourage you to donate any amount you can to local support agencies and become part of the solution to domestic abuse and violence.

To donate to VEST – Victims Empowerment Support Team, CLICK HERE.

Seeing the Signs: Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Part 1

Are You Being Abused by Your Partner, Friend or Family Member [Abuser]?

When you hear the terms “Domestic Violence” and “Sexual Assault” you might think you know exactly what that is. But did you know that these types of malicious behaviors can also be very subtle and hard to recognize. Moreover, through frequent occurrence or how due to biased societal practices or beliefs, you may have become desensitized and become trained to think some types of domestic violence and sexual assault are actual acceptable, rational behaviors.

This is due to the fact that the abuser either consciously or unconsciously understands that these types of abuse is actually mostly about controlling someone’s mind and emotions. Of course, in order to accomplish this they may hurt your body to attain this control, but many times it doesn’t. Abuse often leaves you frightened and confused. It makes it difficult to see your abuser’s actions for what they are. That they are really just ways to control you. In addition, physical abuse isn’t what comes first. And the levels of abusive behavior can start with minor actions that slowly build up into more and more controlling and damaging actions. Often this includes cutting you off from other people to the point where you feel trapped in the relationship.

Have You Seen These Signs?

Controlling Behavior

  • Do you avoid discussing certain topics, saying what you think, or to saying “No” to having sex even when you don’t want to?
  • Does your Abuser threaten you or make decisions for you?
  • Does your Abuser often put you down and criticize you frequently?
  • Have you been accused you of having an affair?
  • Does your Abuser tell you how to look and what kind of clothes you should war?
  • Do you get blamed for being the person responsible for “making your Abuser” act in a controlling or hurtful manner (gaslighting)?
  • Are you afraid of your Abuser?

Indirect Physical Abuse

  • Have you ever been abandoned in a place you don’t know?
  • Have you been kept from eating, sleeping, or getting medical care when you need to?
  • Has your Abuser ever locked you in or out of your house?

Isolating Behaviors

  • Does your Abuser embarrass you in front of others, especially up to the point that it makes you want to avoid people?
  • Does your Abuser keep closely monitor where you go and whom you go with?
  • Do you have to ask permission to go see your friends and family?

Symptoms of Financial Abuse

  • Does your Abuser keep all the cash and any credit cards?
  • Have you been put on an allowance and/or have every item you have spent money on?
  • Is this allowance often too small to cover everything you need for even the minimum daily expenses?
  • Are you prevented from spending any money unless your Abuser approves of it in advance?
  • Have you been prevented from getting job or earning your own money?
  • On the other hand, does your Abuser take all or most of the money you earn away from you?
  • Has your Abuser ever stolen money from you or anyone close to you?

Sexual Abuse

  • Does your Abuser make you participate in any type of sexual activity or dress in any way during sex that makes you feel uncomfortable or is painful?
  • Have you been told that you owe your Abuser sex?
  • Does your Abuser refuse to use a condom or any other birth control when you want to?
  • Has your Abuser ever threatened or tried to give you an STD?
  • Have you ever been forced to have sex?

As the Abuse Intensifies 

  • Does your Abuser yell at you?
  • Does your Abuser throw things, break things or punch the wall when they are with you, whether they are directly angry at you or even something else?
  • Has your Abuser threatened to hurt you or someone close to you because of something you did?
  • Has your Abuser ever threatened to kill themselves, you or someone close to you?

Many of these signs of abuse may seem minor at first. Or, your abuser may have given you reasons or excuses why these abusive actions are normal and appropriate. But if you do see many of these signs, and you feel that you are being controlled or abused, you most likely are.

Watch This Video

Understanding the “Signs” of abuse is explained further in this talk by Francesca Anastasi, established entrepreneur and philanthropist. She is a domestic abuse survivor and has dedicated her life to helping reduce domestic abuse. This talk was originally delivered for a presentation on

What To Do

If you or those close to you are being physically hurt. GET HELP IMMEDIATELY! Separate yourself / yourselves from your abuser and contact 911 if it is an emergency situation. Even if you aren’t being hurt physically, you should get help as soon as possible. Contact a local domestic abuse center and start a conversation with an advisor or counselor. In Solano County and surrounding areas, you can reach out to VEST, Victims Empowerment Support Team by clicking here or email us at [email protected]. And wherever you are in the United States, you can always call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 [1-800-799-SAFE] or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/Hard of Hearing). This is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Remember. Help is Here.