Depressed senior woman wearing face mask looking out of window during COVID-19 pandemic

Hidden Bruises: COVID-19, Domestic Violence, and the Case for Trauma-Informed Care

Depressed senior woman wearing face mask looking out of window during COVID-19 pandemic

The United Nations coined it the “Shadow Pandemic.” While the world entered lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, millions were forced to endure a pandemic of a different kind: violence at the hands of their domestic partner.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence — a national non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating domestic violence — an average of 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking intitated by their intimate partner throughout their lifetime.

As the COVID-19 virus spread and cities locked down, many people found themselves trapped in quarantine with their abusers. A special COVID-19 report released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline noted a 9% increase in calls between March and May 2020, with more than 6,000 of those contacts citing COVID-19 as a factor in their situation. Police departments and emergency rooms also reported a sharp increase in instances of intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic violence in 2020.

Related CE Course: Domestic Violence in the United States

Fuel to the Fire

Exacerbating Factors for IPV During COVID-19

Just as IPV isn’t limited to physical violence, forced proximity to an abusive partner wasn’t the only facet of the pandemic that fueled its rise. In many households, job loss and economic instability caused by the pandemic increased financial entanglements between partners, making it even more difficult for the abused partner to leave.

Loss of reliable childcare, severed social networks, and the closure or restricted access to safe spaces like shelters often allowed abusers to tighten their grip on their partner. In some regions, domestic violence hotlines even saw a decrease in calls — not because instances of IPV had gone down, but because victims were unable to get help safely.

These resource gaps are often even more pronounced in marginalized communities, where systemic inequalities already limit access to transportation, safe housing, healthcare, and medical services. Additionally, histories of racial or gender-based discrimination against people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community may make members of those communities reluctant to seek help.

Compassion and Advocacy

Trauma-Informed Care and the Importance of SANEs

In a healthcare system stretched nearly to its breaking point by the demands of the pandemic, victims of IPV, abuse, or sexual assault who are able to seek medical attention often find their needs unmet. Why? Healthcare professionals on staff lack the necessary forensic knowledge or understanding of trauma-informed care.

Bridging that gap are SANEs, or sexual assault nurse examiners. SANEs are nurses trained in respectful, compassionate, patient-centered healthcare, as well as vital evidence collection for adult and adolescent survivors of sexual assault. SANEs operate across a variety of settings, from hospitals to community care centers to universities, and they’re uniquely equipped to meet the needs of survivors with compassion and accuracy.

Related CE Course: Essentials of Trauma Nursing, 2nd Edition

Meeting the Need

Steps to Become a SANE

To work as a SANE, nurses must successfully complete 40 hours of didactic education approved by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), plus an additional 16 clinical hours aiding adult and adolescent sexual assault survivors.

Elite’s SANE course, approved by IAFN, explores trauma-informed and patient-centered care, injury identification and documentation, evidence collection and handling, and legal issues and testimony.

Start your SANE certification today.