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    COVID-19 and DV

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | April 26th, 2020

    COVID-19 and DV

    This past week I was asked to introduce the moderator for a lunch and learn series: A woman’s Journey to Equity. This was session three – Overcoming Violence Against Women.   Domestic violence (DV)  is on the rise because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we have shelter-in-place restrictions, many victims are being forced to shelter with their abusers. Domestic violence impacts a woman’s health and her economic security for a lifetime. Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States.  After listening to the virtual webinar, I was reminded of the letter I wrote to Nikki that will be featured in my next book:

    Dear Nikki,

    This is a difficult letter to write, but I feel I have no choice. First, I want to say that I am truly sorry for your loss. I know that Cara was a good friend of yours. Her death was tragic, but we should use this time to pause and consider your current relationship.

    My sister always says that we have been missing the point when we talk to young people. We focus on sex and the use of condoms and when to say no. We focus on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV infection. She says it is important to have sex education, but it is equally important to talk about love education: What does love look like?

    Your friend Cara thought that she was in love and that her boyfriend loved her. She thought it was love because he did not want her to talk to anyone but him. Occasionally, she could hang out with her girlfriends, but she was not allowed to talk with any guy without his permission. He wanted to be her only one. Oh yes, he bought her a lot of things. I know she never lacked for anything. I know he was always saying how much he loved her. If he could not have her, no one could. He wanted to be her sole provider. When she thought about going to college, he did not understand why. He was providing everything. He felt that there was nothing college could provide that he could not. He was her main man, and I believe she thought she was his main girl.

    Now look what happened. When she tried to end the relationship, he went crazy. She tried to get a restraining order, and I believe she did, but that did not prevent him from shooting her and then killing himself. Two young lives wasted. Nikki, what does love look like?

    I write because you have told me in the past that your boyfriend has hit you, but he really did not mean to hit you. He hit you because he was upset, and you just happened to be around. You tell me he loves you, but every time you ace your exam at school, he is never happy with your accomplishments. When you needed a car to travel to one of your chess tournaments, you could not find him, so you had to forfeit the game. You did not want to take a chance and get into another person’s car for fear that he would think that you were cheating on him. You rarely go out with your girlfriends. He even has you against your parents. Every night he calls you and says he loves you but is that really love.

    Nikki, I would rather have a man who never says he loves me but whose actions speak in such a way that the whole world knows that he loves me. I want someone that tries his best to make me the best person that I can be and not feel threatened. I want someone who loves my family as much as he loves his family. I want someone who does not mind me getting compliments from people, because he is confident and knows that he has the best. I want someone who, when he is angry, does not use me as a punching bag but can resolve his issues without violence. I want someone who also understands that we might grow apart for whatever reason and that it is okay.

    I am your physician, not your parent.  My primary focus is your physical health, but we both know that there is a powerful connection between physical and emotional health. I want to be clear with you; I am not telling or asking you to break up with your boyfriend. I am asking you to use Cara’s death as a wakeup call. A call that is asking you the following question: What does love look like?

    You are not due to see me until next year; however, if you need to be seen earlier or just want to talk, please call the office. Take care.


    Ngozi Osuagwu, MD, FACOG                                                                         

    With the stress of losing a job, being in closed quarters, worrying about food and money,  domestic violence increases. If you need immediate help, you can call or text 911(texting available in limited areas).

    There is also anonymous and confidential help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-782-3224 (TTY).

    The CDC has additional information.

    If you know someone that needs help, reach out to them. You may save a life.

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