For domestic abuse victims, the pandemic exacerbated an already dangerous situation. With so many families trapped with their abusers, the pandemic has increased domestic violence rates across the county.
Coronavirus and Domestic Violence Rates
In the past year, domestic violence cases have skyrocketed as the world shut down over the Coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., police reports showed a staggering rise in domestic abuse cases: an 18% increase in San Antonio, 22% in Portland, OR, and 10% in New York City. Even more concerning, the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reported more abuse-related injuries in two months than occurred during the same period in 2018 and 2019 combined.
Intimate partner violence has long been a problem in our country. But as more couples and families face extraordinary stress and are forced into close quarters, domestic abuse has become even more of a concern.
The Pandemic and Isolation
Last spring, when the pandemic began, we examined the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on women and children experiencing abuse. (You can read more in-depth about this topic here). Just like many experts predicted, pandemic-mandated isolation led to an increase in intimate partner violence.
Isolation is one of the key tools abusers use to distance their partners from family and friends. And when the entire world shut down, that isolation became even more pronounced. Tensions from job loss, economic struggle, homeschooling and childcare issues, and sheer proximity boiled over. Stress, combined with isolation and lack of access to helpful resources, were a perfect storm for increased domestic abuse in America.
Why Are Fewer People Reporting Domestic Abuse?
When we first entered lockdown, many domestic abuse agencies expected an influx of calls from survivors. But those calls never came. In some instances, reports of domestic violence dropped as much as 50% over the past year. We know abuse hasn't stopped – all indications are that it's gotten worse. So why the drop in reporting?
In a word: isolation. Victims and their children are now trapped at home with their abusers, with no way to report violence safely. Teachers aren't seeing students face-to-face, so they can't assess and report suspected child abuse. Doctors' offices aren't seeing routine patients, meaning abuse survivors can't admit to violence and ask for help. And shelters dedicated to helping women are at reduced capacity because of COVID-19.
How Can Victims Get Help?
The dramatic decrease in domestic violence reporting isn't encouraging. In fact, it's just the opposite. All indications point to a rise in domestic abuse incidents across America, but the victims have fewer options to report violence.
As life begins to return to normal – and many areas ease lockdown restrictions – it's likely more victims will come forward. Experts are ready to help those in need of support.
During this time, there are still ways for survivors to report abuse and find help safely. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to chat with victims, their friends, and family members 24/7/365. Contact them online at https://www.thehotline.org/or call the hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also contact our partner organization, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS).
If you are concerned about a friend or family member, click here to learn more about ways you can help.
You can find more information about reporting domestic abuse safely here. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, do not wait. Call 911.