Domestic violence prevention during pandemic

  • Published
  • By Laraine Thompson
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in global stay-at-home directives. This can place additional stress on family relationships, and can make existing negative situations worse.

“When in this environment, it is important to be aware of things like irritability, outbursts, feelings of hopelessness and anxiety,” expresses Col. Patrick Pohle, Air Force Family Advocacy Program chief. “If people can acknowledge things are escalating, that’s the time to find safe areas in the home and agreeable rules of engagement. Disengage and recharge a little bit, so that a small situation doesn’t escalate.”

Keeping Airmen and their families safe is a critical priority for the Air Force during these challenging times.

Potential victims need to have a safety plan in the event a situation turns violent. They should plan what they will do, where they will go and who they will call. Secure documents should be in a place they can access in case they need to quickly leave the residence.

“Even in social distancing mandates, people have to balance safety and risks in different ways,” said Pohle. “There is safety and risk regarding COVID-19 health issues, but there are sometimes more immediate risks to personal harm. They need to reach out to get out of the situation.”

“Domestic violence or stress can adversely impact Airman medical readiness,” emphasizes Col Pohle. “Readiness requires focus. When our fears cloud our minds, we are simply not focused on the mission at hand or perhaps our own well-being.”

There are many resources available, such as Military One Source and national hotlines for domestic violence and suicide prevention. Each military installation has its own published phone numbers for family advocacy. When in imminent danger, victims can reach out to local law enforcement.

Pohle also suggests to consider children in emergency planning before a situation turns violent. For example, children should know a room they can go to when they are afraid and may need to be taught when and how to call 911.

In potential child abuse cases, hopefully one supportive parent can look out for the needs of the child. If that is not the case, a caring friend outside the home or a more formal authority such as a first sergeant or commander who is aware of the situation can reach out and check on the family.

“It’s amazing what a kind word out of the blue from a phone call can do to change somebody’s entire day,” emphasizes Pohle. “We’re physically distancing, but you don’t want to lose connection.”

Emergencies: Call 911 if you are in immediate danger

Additional Resources:
Military One Source Domestic Abuse
800-342-9647 or 703-253-7599

Military One Source Military Installations
Locate the closest Family Advocacy Program

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
TTY 1-800-787-3224

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Department of the Air Force
Leadership tools for crisis prevention, intervention and post-vention