The Safer at Home Order is Not Always a Safe Haven

Wisconsin residents have been living under the Safer at Home Order since March 25, 2020 to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus. The order’s main focus is for Wisconsin residents to stay home, safe from the virus that is quickly spreading in the world outside the home. But what if home isn’t a safe haven from abuse and violence.

Self-isolation practices are causing dangerous, scary situations for victims of domestic abuse and their children as they are being forced to be home with their abusive partners. Not only are victims and their children having to stay home, but the activities they used to have to get needed relief for the hardship of home life such as; school, running errands, visiting friends, or seeking support from an advocate have been cut off.

The pandemic has also caused stress and anxiety to rise with the rise of unemployment, sickness, death, and a list of uncertainties – all of these which likely intensify the abuse that they face. Our current Safer at Home order is creating a vulnerable environment for abusers that want to isolate or hurt their victim(s).

The frequency and severity of domestic abuse will likely increase while Americans stay home for weeks or months during the pandemic,” said Katie Ray-Jones, President and CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The increased stress and fear throughout the past weeks have caused increased sales in firearms and liquor – both of which can contribute to escalating abuse.

At Harbor House, we have seen an increase in the number of calls coming through on our 24/7 Helpline. Our staff has been safety planning with individuals that are isolated at home with their abuser. We want to encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to have a safety plan and connect with local resources, even as restrictions meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus are put in place.

Clients that I am working with are feeling increased anxiety, hopelessness, and isolation.  Many cannot make any moves or decisions now due to increased barriers. We have been spending more time taking calls from survivors and community members. Not only has the quantity of calls increased, but also the time that we are spending on calls is increasing. We are spending more time safety planning with clients that are now isolated to their home with their abuser.
-Harbor House’s Adult Advocate, Christy Coenen.

Our staff has also been working hard to shift our services to a remote platform. Our advocates are now meeting one-on-one with clients by phone or video chat. Our shelter remains open and we feel beyond blessed to be in our newly renovated/expanded space. Our facility has given us the space to have one family in one bedroom and/or one adult in one bedroom. This setup has also allowed us to give our residents their own space to isolate to keep themselves safe and healthy during this COVID-19 outbreak. Most recently, our staff has been able to create mini “suites” by combining adjacent bedrooms with one room being their bedroom and turning the other room into a living room kitchen. Our staff has been working hard to stay up-to-date on policies and guidelines regarding how to keep our staff, residents, and clients safe.

We are going to get through this together. As a community, we need to support one another. If you think you have a loved one who is not safe while isolated at home, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Reach out and check in on them on a regular basis. Make sure that they know they are not alone and that they have your support and love.
  2. Be careful. You never know how the victim is being monitored.
  3. Call your local domestic abuse program. Talk with a staff member to help process your emotions and get resources for what the best thing is for you to do to support.


If you are an individual that is isolated at home with a partner you don’t feel safe with, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

  1. Try to not be reactive; remove yourself from the situation if/when your partner gets upset and things start to escalate. As much as possible, don’t get pulled into things, keep your head low.
  2. Do not allow yourself to be trapped in a corner or in a room with weapons (such as kitchen or bathroom) if your partner is escalating.
  3. If you are able, reach out to your local domestic violence program. They will be able to help you establish a safety plan and talk you through any questions and concerns you have.
  4. Have a contact in mind such as a loved one/family/friend who you can reach out to for support.
  5. Keep yourself busy with tasks.


For anyone that is concerned about a loved one’s safety or is concerned about your own safety, please reach out to us at 920.832.1667. We are here 24/7 to listen, talk, and support. It takes all of us to end domestic violence in our community. Let’s aim to spend this time when we are physically apart to come together by showering each other with love, support, and understanding. We are all in this together and together we will rise.