How to survive quarantine with a domestic abuser: advice from Safe Passage

Safe Passage official tells victims to "Trust your gut," and call for help early

DeKALB -- Adhering to a government-mandated order to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic presents particular problems for those in domestic violence abuse situations.

While Illinois residents self-isolate and many work from home, Safe Passage, DeKalb County's only advocacy organization for those suffering from domestic violence, is here to offer advice which may save your life.

Lynnea Erickson Laskowski, director of communication and prevention services for Safe Passage, said there are some options for abuse victims in the current climate.

"People in abusive situations, their only escape may be school or work," she said.

Laskowski said they should call their friends and family and that if they are worried, and call or text for help. They shouldn't isolate themselves in order to maintain social distance, however.

Erickson Laskowski said you can go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website to find additional tips on "Staying Safe During COVID-19." The blog includes information about how an abuser might use isolation to their advantage.

Erickson Laskowski said she wants people to know Safe Passage is still operating and that it's been an essential service under Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker's executive order. She said people can still call the shelter any time, day or night. She stressed the importance of making that call.

"If you're feeling unsafe, trust your gut and reach out to friends or family, us or the police," Erickson Laskowski said. "We still have a 24-hour crisis line. We still have our shelter. If someone is in a dangerous situation, we'll find somewhere for them to go."

She said those who are sheltered with their abusers should have a safety plan in place, which may include thinking ahead of where they can go if they need to leave, keeping a cell phone, and keeping documents and medications in a safe place so they can grab it and go.

"They might have a "go-bag," a list of who to talk to, the safest room in the house," she said.

Erickson Laskowski was quick to point out there's no general list of things someone should do in an abusive situation because every situation is different and it's not on the victim to keep the abuser calm. Victims need to know that the abuse is not their fault.

And, the time to call for help is early on, she said.

"You don't need to wait until you're in danger," she said. "If something feels off, trust your gut."

Laskowski said even in the best of times in families without abuse, people can get on each other's nerves," she said.

"[People should] take time for themselves," she said. "Listen to music, read a book, have time to be by themselves. Communicate if you do need that time apart."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, contact the Safe Passage Crisis Hotline at 815-756-5228. Operators are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.