How COVID-19 is Affecting Domestic Violence in the US

By  //  August 6, 2020

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Domestic violence, a highly prevalent issue in the United States right now, has only increased amongst the COVID-19 outbreak.

Domestic violence, a highly prevalent issue in the United States right now, has only increased amongst the COVID-19 outbreak.

With the prevalence of COVID-19 comes the obvious presence of social isolation. Families are stuck inside together, children have been pulled out of school, and parents are losing their jobs.

Financial burdens, employment instability, and monetary strain puts pressure on families, especially those with domestic abusers in the household. 

Social isolation is one of the most common methods used by abusers in an attempt to pull victims away from loved ones and their support systems.

Now more than ever, victims are stuck at home with their abusers as well as trapped in this social isolation.

Amidst the pandemic, abusers often threaten their victims by saying they will spread the virus to them.

Abusers will also hide necessary supplies for their victims to take care of themselves or others. Intimate partner violence is also showing to be significantly higher amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations predicts that there will be a 20% increase in intimate partner violence throughout the world after three months of quarantine.

Intimate partner violence tends to increase during natural disasters and worldwide crises. After 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, domestic violence increased significantly.

“Undergoing economic stress and other personal factors can lead to an increase in violence between partner and family members. These outside forces can strain relationships as is, but sometimes people can result to violence.” said Attorney Michael Hawkins of Hawkins Spizman.

“Protective orders can be put in place for family members feeling stuck in these violent situations. Statistically speaking, it’s difficult to track the effects of COVID-19 on domestic abuse because so much abuse goes unreported. Due to under reporting, the data tends to be inaccurate even in normal times.

However, it’s important to note that with elevated financial stress, domestic violence is 3.5x more likely to happen in the home (National Institute of Justice).

In addition, heterosexual relationships tend to show higher rates of abuse from the male while he is unemployed. According to the National Institute of Justice via Five Thirty Eight, when the man in the relationship is employed, the rate of abuse is 4.7%. When the man in the relationship is unemployed, that rate shoots up to 7.5% and up to 12.3% when he is unemployed for two periods of time.

“Domestic violence is about power and control, and when your job, finances and livelihood are all up in the air, abuse becomes a place where people seek to regain that sense of control,” Five Thirty Eight stated in a recent article concerning the relationship between COVID-19 and domestic abuse.

The Marshall Project was able to look into three specific cities where domestic abuse police reports have been dropping since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic: Chicago, Austin, and Chandler, AZ. After all three cities were evaluated and researched, it was found that domestic violence reports have been lower while overall crime has stayed at the same level.

One speculated opinion on this is that victims are not able to file police reports or call a hotline because they are stuck at home with their abuser and cannot safely access help.

It’s possible that victims feel like they are putting themselves at higher risk by reporting their abusers because they are stuck at home in a confined space with them and the abusers could strike back if they find out they have been reported.

Since only around 50% of domestic violence crimes are reported to the police when it comes to inter-family abuse, it’s hard to measure specific numbers or reasons.

COVID-19 has increased the risk of domestic violence for thousands of people but especially for women, children, and those of the LGBTQ+ community.

According to the United Nations, one in three women have been subjected at least once in her lifetime to some form of sexual or physical violence, and members of the LGBTQ+ community experience these issues at similar rates. 

In April, CBS News published an article regarding the United Nations statement that with six more months of lockdown could come 31 million more cases of domestic violence across the globe. Every three months of lockdown means 15 million more cases.

With the increased possibility of domestic abuse during COVID-19, it’s important to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during this time.

If you or a loved one is at risk of domestic abuse, reach out to a reliable attorney today to ensure your safety.