“Social Distancing,” “6-feet apart,” “remote learning.” By now, after barely a month since the world we came to know changed, such terms have become so widely used that they need no further explanation. And, in practicing them, we’ve all become a little more familiar with the concept of a “break.” A break for employees having to dress appropriately and go to the office every day. A break for students having to sit through another boring social studies class right after lunch period. A break for all of us having to fight a large crowd just to get into our favorite bar or restaurant on a Saturday night. These breaks are all consequences of the larger social goal that most of us can agree is a very good thing – slowing the scourge of COVID-19.

            Unfortunately, many of the people that we no longer see in-person during our daily routines continue to suffer from another scourge – domestic violence. You probably didn’t even know these were domestic violence survivors when you saw them at the office, or when they taught your child at school, or when you shared a drink with them after work. Yet, there they were, well within 6 feet of you, most likely putting on a brave face and smile if, for no other reason, that in that moment they had a BREAK from what awaited them back home.

            Now, most businesses are working remote, bars and restaurants are empty, the schools are closed, and the survivor’s breaks are gone. Just as important, the breaks for the children who were once in school, sports, or other activities during the day are gone as well. The social isolation that our local and national leaders tell us is so important to practice in combatting the spread of COVID-19, is the same isolation that an abuser now exploits against his victim in the name of public health and social consciousness.

            In the midst of the world changing before our very eyes, society has taken a break from talking about almost anything else but the pandemic. Right now, it is necessary for all of us to prioritize slowing the spread as much as possible because COVID-19 is here, it is widespread, and it is killing our family and friends. We know this because nearly every news channel has a running ticker on the number of new cases and deaths. In fact, it is impossible to take a break from talking about COVID-19 with at least one other person every day.

            As our social isolation continues, it will also become impossible to take any more breaks from addressing domestic violence as well. Why? Because the longer we are forced to take all of these breaks necessary in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the more domestic violence will continue to spread amongst our loved ones and friends, in the dark and behind closed doors. COVID-19 will not be the only scourge that needs to be slowed. Eventually, the survivors – our teachers, co-workers, friends, and family – will need their breaks again. To learn how you can give breaks to domestic violence survivors during this time, make sure to tune into part 2 of this series.

Scott Hahn