Most of us have seen the signs: bruises, strangulation marks, scars…all visible signs of domestic abuse. What about the invisible signs? What about the emotional toll that constant degradation and control can inflict on a survivor? The constant reminder that you’re worthless and no one else wants you. The total and complete feeling of helplessness and lack of control over your own life. Even more, there are often innocent children present, clinging to their mother’s leg while she endures the abuse, or hiding in their bedrooms to avoid the fray.
Does this sound horrific to you? Imagine if this was your life and you had to endure this every day. We all have friends, family members and neighbors who live with this on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these experiences are can be even worse during times of disaster or crises. In 2020, the normal stresses that many close members our community face with poverty, substance abuse, mental health challenges, etc. are compounded even more by concern over COVID-19.
Quarantine or involuntary stay-at-home orders only worsen an already grim situation. Normal stressors are exacerbated by the ominous dark cloud of fear associated with COVID-19. Stay at home orders and quarantines limit a survivor’s access to help or shelter. Abusers can use the circumstances to keep their victim isolated.
Although many tribal offices of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are closed, there is still help available. The Ernestine Walkingstick Shelter is still open and available to victims in need. The Family Safety Program is still hard at work investigating cases of child abuse or sexual assault. Additionally, the Cherokee Indian Police Dept. will still respond if someone is in danger.
During times like these, it is more important than ever that we support each other. Watch out for and take care of your community and family. If you suspect someone that you know is experiencing domestic violence, find a safe way to let them know that there is help out there. If you are victim, reach out to the Ernestine Walkingstick Shelter 359-6830. As always, call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
– EBCI Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence program release