The Pandemic and the Increase in Domestic Violence and Harassment

We are all going through a difficult time right now. Social isolation and being confined to our homes is affecting people’s mental health. But for domestic violence survivors, being isolated and confined with their abusers can be dangerous, and even deadly. Their abusers know they’re cut off from their usual supports. I urge people to check on their friends, and memorize the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also chat online at thehotline.org if you need help without someone overhearing. This service is available 24/7.

As well as physical violence escalating, so is general harassment. I’m grateful that I no longer live with an abusive partner, but I have to deal with my ex wife when we exchange our child. I was sick with covid19 for six weeks, and I’m finally able to breathe better in the past few days. I also had headaches, fatigue, sore throat, etc. At times I had to ask my ex for help because I needed to go to urgent care and the emergency room for my breathing issues. I had Atelectasis, or a partially collapsed lung

My ex knows that I’m cut off from my supports. I have phone therapy, but it’s not as helpful. She has been using this against me, including using her emergency key to let herself into my house without my permission. I told her I was changing the locks, and she dropped to her knees in front of my kid and started crying and begging me not to. Since she did this, I installed a cheap $25 Wyze camera for the front door. As soon I set up the camera, I sent my ex wife a text that let her know. She said nothing in response. She has also increased her verbal abuse. The social isolation was clearly causing her stress, and apparently I was an easy target. Since I set even firmer boundaries, she’s been slightly better.

She has also been gaslighting me. The problem with DID is that my memory is spotty, and I’m more likely to forget bad events. She knows this, and tries to use it against me. However, because my parts and I have better communication and cooperation, they usually fill me in on things I missed. The only problem is sometimes that information gets delayed. The other day, my ex wife denied ever threatening to use my mental illness against me in divorce court. It made me feel crazy, because it’s so invalidating. Last year I spent almost an hour on the phone with her pleading to take the divorce to mediation instead of open court. She had broken into my journals to use them against me. I have a picture of the busted latch on my foot locker. The lock had tool marks on it. Her reasoning for doing this is that she didnt trust me, because I said she was abusive. I never said that I’d use that against her in court, it was just my reasoning for leaving her. She was able to see her daughter every weekend. There was no need to threaten me. It caused me a great deal of stress at the time. I even had to call the mental health legal advocates and talk to them about it. In the end, my ex backed down, and we worked it out with lawyers. I know she wanted to scare me, and she still wanted power and control, which is the foundation of domestic violence.

Since the pandemic started, she’s been trying to exert control as much as possible. She also didn’t follow social distancing rules for a long time, and it’s highly likely that I got covid19 from her, because she wasn’t taking it seriously. She did help me out when I had to been seen for my illness, and occasionally she’d take Emma for extra time because I was really sick. I hated having to ask her for favors.

The other thing she’s been doing is harassing me on Facebook. I had deactivated my profile because I have multiple stalkers from bad relationships, but this week I permanently deleted it. This still takes 30 days, which is stupid. It’s because Facebook wants you to change your mind. Anyway, her and a couple exes have been using social media as a way to harass me, and it’s been stressful.

Online harassment has been happening to me for a decade. When I left my abusive ex girlfriend in 2007, she continued to harass and stalk me online for many years. I would often report her, but little was done. She’d make new accounts and continue her behaviour. She then decided to use Facebook to “check in” to businesses on the road I lived on, as if to say I know where you live. She posted things about DID because she knows it’s a source of shame for me, and I don’t want to tell people about it. (I’m working on that!)

Last year I was assaulted on a date. I met this person online, on a dating app. It was our third date, and she didn’t tell me she was bringing vodka to my house. We’d been talking for a month. She seemed smart, responsible, and she was a mother of three kids. I was drinking wine because that’s what I’m used to. She went to her car and got a bottle of opened vodka. I told her I didn’t like vodka, but she kept insisting I have some. She made a drink that was sweet, and said I wouldn’t taste the vodka. I said no thanks. I had one glass of wine, and I was ok. But over the course of the evening she kept insisting I try her drinks. I gave in, I guess because I was being polite, but I should’ve kept saying no. It was sugary and easy to drink, and I lost track of how many she made me.

At 3 AM I was drunk and tired. I told her I was going to bed, and she was welcome to stay in my daughter’s room if she couldn’t drive (my daughter was at my ex’s house for the weekend). I went upstairs and showed her the futon in my kid’s room. She looked mad or annoyed. She said I want to sleep in your room, and I got nervous because I didn’t want that. I told her that my daughter’s room was the only room with air conditioning (it was August and very humid), and that it would be a better option for her. I was drunk, and my mind was moving slowly. She said no thanks and walked down the hall towards my bedroom. I was uncomfortable but drunk and didn’t want to upset her. I got into my pjs and she was already in my bed. She started kissing me, and I was ok with that. I didn’t want to go any further, for a few reasons. But all of a sudden she was on top of me and pulling off my underwear. I was really drunk and barely knew what was going on until it was too late, it happened so fast. That’s when she raped me. She fell asleep pinning me down, and I passed out. In the morning, I felt horrible, but I was polite to her. I just wanted her to leave my house. Later that day she texted me and said sorry things moved so fast. I was stupid and scared, so I said that’s ok. I hate myself for texting that back, but she honestly did scare me at that point, and because of all my previous trauma, I just wanted to avoid the situation. She had injured me. I didn’t go to the hospital or doctor’s because I was dissociative, so for a long time we numbed the pain. Soon I started forgetting what had happened completely. All I remembered is saying to my therapist that if I wasn’t drunk, it wouldn’t have happened. Weeks later I was able to block her and realize everything after she assaulted me a second time. I feel like an idiot, and I didn’t want to write this honestly. But maybe it’ll help someone. The treatment book for DID talks about how we are more likely to be re-victimized because we don’t see the threat until it’s too late, and then we dissociate and forget there is a threat. They actually call it sitting duck syndrome, which makes me feel ashamed. I’m not weak. I just have a mental illness that makes me dissociate when I’m traumatized. I had even forgotten that she told me she punched her ex husband in the face, but another part of me remembered, which contributed to our overall fear of her. When I got the courage to report the incidents, the cop blamed me for drinking, and he said it was my fault for seeing her again. The district attorney wouldn’t prosecute her, even though my ER records showed I had abrasions and other injuries. I remember the look on the doctor’s face after he examined me. He looked sad, and he said this looks like intentional injury. And yet the justice system didn’t care.

After this I was feeling ashamed and hopeless, but a month later I met another woman and decided to go on some dates again. I wanted to prove to myself that this incident didn’t affect me I guess. The woman I met was a musician and very smart. I liked talking to her. Over time, I disclosed to her that I’d recently been assaulted on a date. She responded with understanding. On the 4th date, she had her friend confront me because she thought I was friend-zoning her. I guess I was, because I wasn’t ready. I needed to meet friends after my divorce, and my primary goal was making connections with people. That night we started kissing, and she pinned me down and started touching me. I wasn’t ready for that, and I froze a little. She kept telling me to take off my pants, but I wouldn’t. I wasn’t drunk, so it was easier to stop her. But after that experience, I felt upset. I felt like it was too much, and I wish I had told her to stop right away. I didn’t want to date her after that. I saw her and her friends a few more times. She was upset with me for shutting her down that night. She told me we should just be friends while I was trying to force my brain out of the friendzone. I shouldn’t have forced myself to date again so soon. I felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t want to be intimate with her. In the end, it was just because of her forceful nature, I wasn’t broken. I just wanted a connection and for someone to listen to me. I can only have sex with someone if I feel an emotional connection, otherwise it’s triggering. It’s also triggering to have someone try and coerce me into something I clearly didn’t want to do. Sex is important in a relationship, but I only enjoy it if there’s connection and basic trust. I just wasn’t that into her, and I wasn’t ready, so why should I force myself to be?

After this I stopped talking to her completely. She texted me on Thanksgiving, but I ignored her and blocked her number. I didn’t block her on social media, but I unfriended her. Because of my bad memory, I completely forgot about her until about two weeks ago. I was on my friend’s profile and I saw her face, I forgot she was a mutual friend of theirs. Shortly after that, I deactivated my profile due to my ex wife and the physical therapy assistant who harassed me posting things publicly that were aimed at me. When I went to this woman’s profile to block her, I noticed something weird. She had been posting a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. I think she was mad that I’d blocked her. I just didn’t want to deal with her ever again, so that was my right. Those were my boundaries, and it made me feel a little bit safer. Then I realized she might have been viewing my Instagram stories. I was disgusted, and I realized it was through a mutual follower. I didn’t think she’d have access to my account, so that’s why I left that follower on my profile. In hindsight, I should’ve deleted them last year.

So my long story basically sums up the fact that I’ve dealt with a lot of harassment online, and I’ve met some people I wish I hadn’t. People are bored being stuck in their houses, so they’re more likely to stalk or harass exes online. This makes the other person feel crazy because it’s not something police are going to do anything about. Often they post things that you know are aimed at you, but you can’t prove it. They know they can’t tag your name in it of course, but they hope it will affect you in some way. I’m still on Instagram, but not everyone can see my stories. I learned my lesson. My ex wife continues to post stupid shit on Facebook. She knows she’s done some bad things, so she’s in reaction formation. She’s trying to prove to everyone, especially her family and friends, that she’s a good person. She wants people to think I’m wrong for saying she’s abusive. I don’t really care what they think, I lived it. She continues to act shady, and I call her out on it. A few months ago she tried to get me to do ecstasy with her. I said I haven’t done that since my twenties, why?! No thanks. She stopped offering it after I said no. This is the bullshit I have to deal with because she’s my daughter’s other mom. She knows I’ll call the cops on her when she gets verbally abusive and won’t leave at drop off, but I don’t want it to come to that, for my kids sake. If she makes me feel unsafe, I will.

If you’ve been contacted or harassed by unwanted exes or abusers during this difficult time, please know that you’re not alone. It feels awful, but just remember that they are bored and trying to get power over you again. Set boundaries, check the privacy settings on your social media, and block as many people as you need to. Don’t ever feel bad for telling someone to leave you alone if it makes you upset or uncomfortable. And please talk to your friends about the power and control cycle of domestic violence. See my previous post on this for more information and my stories about living though abuse and getting away.

And finally, my story of dating violence was not easy to share, especially because of my dissociation, but I hope it helps someone to know they’re not alone. Alcohol is used in a lot of these assaults, and it’s never your fault for drinking. I have decided to be more careful about my choices however. I no longer drink, but that’s a personal choice of mine. I’ve talked to my therapist and multiple sexual assault counselors since it happened, and they all tell me that the way I dealt with it afterwards happens a lot and is a reaction to trauma. I just wish the police and justice system were more trauma informed. It’s bad enough to have to go through something like that, but to be victim blamed is extremely damaging. Society needs to do better for assualt survivors. I hope everyone is staying safe, hopefully soon we’ll be able to leave our homes more often. My heart goes out to anyone stuck in a violent situation right now.

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