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Upswing in domestic violence an observable side effect of outbreak | READER COMMENTARY

In this March 23, 2020 file photo, a man walks across a nearly empty Adams Street near The Art Institute of Chicago, in Chicago, on the first work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order earlier last month. As families across the country and the globe hunker down at home, there's another danger, also insidious if less immediately obvious, that worries advocates and officials: A potential spike in domestic violence. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
In this March 23, 2020 file photo, a man walks across a nearly empty Adams Street near The Art Institute of Chicago, in Chicago, on the first work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order earlier last month. As families across the country and the globe hunker down at home, there's another danger, also insidious if less immediately obvious, that worries advocates and officials: A potential spike in domestic violence. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Thank you for bringing attention to the horrifying increase in intimate partner violence as COVID-19 spreads within our community (“A side effect of coronavirus: More domestic violence and fewer victims seeking help, Maryland experts warn,” March 29). We sincerely appreciate The Baltimore Sun highlighting that services are still available for victims during this time.

At the Maryland Health Care Coalition Against Domestic Violence, we are committed to ensuring that those who experience intimate partner violence can find proactive, effective and life-saving responses from the health care community. And now that the world is experiencing a global pandemic, the health care community could be the difference between life and death for not only those fighting off the virus, but for victims fighting for their lives in abusive situations.

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Victims of intimate partner violence may be some of the highest at risk, as they are often more susceptible to sickness and to have chronic health issues that would make them vulnerable to the virus. One form of abuse that is often less discussed, but infinitely exacerbated by an international health crisis is medical abuse. In the field, we see that abusive partners will not allow victims to seek medical treatment, withhold medication and medical devices or over-medicate their partners as a way to control them, threaten to “out” their partner’s health status, or use their diagnosis against them. The good news is that these are issues for which the health-care community may be best positioned to screen.

In a time where isolation, a tool often used by abusive partners, is at its peak and medical appointments may indeed be the only place where a victim is able to seek aid from the violence, it is that much more important that medical professionals know the signs of abuse and are aware of their local domestic violence service programs. For more information, individuals can go to our website at www.healthanddv.org or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

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Karalyn Mulligan and Lauren Dougherty, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, president and training and outreach specialist for Maryland Health Care Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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