COVID-19 could create 'perfect storm' for domestic violence victims quarantined with abusers, expert says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As people are being urged to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, there's concern for domestic violence victims who could be quarantined with their abusers.

"It's more dangerous now because you have to be forced to stay in the house with the partner you're with, a lot of times you might not be able to get to a resource or get to a phone," said Yolanda Carter, a domestic violence survivor.

Experts said victims usually call for help when their abusers are at work or away from the house.

Rebecca Darr, CEO of domestic violence organization WINGS, called the coronavirus crisis a perfect storm for abuse, as many are sheltered at home with anxiety over health and finances.

"We know that the statewide hotline is getting a lot of calls and they are trying to pass them through us, but we can only have so many people in the houses for health reasons to keep staff and clients safe," Darr said.

WINGS has come up with a creative way to shelter women and their children. All of their safe house residents have been moved to rented hotel rooms with kitchens, but more funding is needed to pay for additional rooms.

"The problem is the hotels cannot provide that for free, given how much they are hurting, so we are relying on more state and federal funding," Darr said.

Despite the obstacles during the COVID-19 crisis, WINGS encourages victims to call for help before its too late.

Yolanda Carter said she held off for a long time before her boyfriend beat her in the head with a hammer four years ago.

"We always say we love the person, but we hate the abuse and that's why we stay, we stay in these bad relationships because of the fear of the unknown," Carter said.

Anyone in need of help can call the state's domestic violence hotline at 877-863-6338 (877-TO END DV).
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