Lockdowns, quarantining, and evading social interactions have become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to the virus, self-isolation can be seen as a way of keeping safe and secure. Outside of the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this isolation can be detrimental.

In an abusive relationship, one of the most debilitating methods used by an abuser can be forced isolation. This includes controlling to whom one’s spouse can see or speak, what they can read, where they go, and limiting outside involvement. Examples of such behaviors could include monitoring all messages and social media accounts, or forcing and guilting the other to stay home rather than meeting up with friends and family.

All of these behaviors are performed intentionally to establish power over one’s spouse. Through isolation, the abuser attempts to control the way a spouse thinks, feels, and acts. If the desired outcome is to dominate their partner, then allowing them to communicate with others or experiencing happiness outside of the home may diminish their power.

One tactic we see at Project S.A.R.A.H. is where the abuser incites arguments when the spouse wants to see friends or family. The spouse may stop spending time with others to avoid arguments and this results in the spouse becoming further trapped by the abuser.

How can friends and family members attempt to support people they feel may be experiencing this form of isolation? Notice.

When someone no longer picks up his/her phone anymore, doesn’t answer a text, or when he/she does, it is brief, notice. If someone used to be able to make time for you but no longer can, notice.

Peer support is incredibly important, and as a friend, consider sharing your observations with the individual of concern. There may be benign reasons why he/she can no longer meet and talk like before. Or the concerns of abuse may be real and then you can tell them about Project S.A.R.A.H..

Project S.A.R.A.H., New Jersey’s domestic violence and sexual abuse program for Jewish families, is here to assist anyone in New Jersey who has previously been or currently finds themselves in a high-conflict relationship. Our dedicated therapists strive to help individuals develop healthier and safer relationships through safety planning, exploring available options, processing trauma, or just having a confidential place to talk. Our staff is well-trained in many therapeutic modalities.

Additionally, we are here to lend an open ear to individuals who seek guidance in situations that they have noticed with friends or family. Each and every individual is met with empathy and care to provide safe and effective help. As a staff trained in identifying high-conflict relationships and a team devoted to addressing the needs of the community, please reach out to Project S.A.R.A.H. for assistance, advice, or information. If you or someone you know can benefit from these services, please call us at 973-777-7638, ext. 151.

Max Kirshblum, LSW
Project S.A.R.A.H. Staff