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Stay at Home orders intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 are triggering more domestic violence cases. Abuse victims confined to their homes with their abusers are at increased risk of more frequent and more severe acts of violence, and have reduced ability to call for help. Stress and isolation, among other factors, are exacerbating violence in the home.
According to the CDC, one in three women and one in four men have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. For those who experience violence regularly, home is not a safe place during times of crisis. With families in lockdown worldwide, the United Nations Population Fund estimates that three months of quarantine will result in a 20% rise in intimate partner violence (IPV) throughout the world. The report released by the UNFPA predicts the lockdowns will trigger an additional 15 million domestic violence cases worldwide.
Domestic Violence Thrives in Times of Crisis
Governments around the world are unequipped to handle the increase in domestic violence incidents; yet, anyone with an understanding of IPV could have predicted the uptick in domestic violence reports, since IPV tends to surge during crises.
In 2017, domestic violence rose during Hurricane Harvey. According to Psychologist Josie Serrata, Ph.D., stress and social isolation can raise the risk of domestic violence. In her 2019 study, Understanding the Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Family Violence Survivors in Texas and Those Who Serve Them, she found that the stress associated with the storm led to an increase in domestic violence and child abuse.
“We found social factors that put people more at risk for violence are reduced access to resources, increased stress due to job loss or strained finances, and disconnection from social support systems. With this pandemic, we’re seeing similar things happen.”
Other factors may also contribute to an increase in IPV, including fewer options for victims to find safety or support. With social distancing in place, it’s more challenging for victims to leave home and find shelter. Additionally, shelters nationwide are closing. Many of the shelters that remain open don’t have enough resources to help victims. Generally, people do not want to risk getting sick by going to emergency rooms, some of which are overflowing with patients, leaving victims with scarce options to stay out of harm’s way.
Why is Domestic Violence Increasing During COVID-19?
People who are out of work or working from home are no longer interacting socially with coworkers, friends, or even relatives. In many parts of the country, public parks and facilities closed down, as well as non-essential businesses. Isolation allows abusers to take full control over their victims’ environment since they know their victims can’t leave them. Domestic violence victims, who used to be able to call for help during work or while running errands, now have even less time to themselves.
Stress increases during times of uncertainty. Compared to Hurricane Harvey, stress from the coronavirus is more pronounced. People don’t know how long they will be subjected to isolation, social distancing, and whether or not the virus will eventually affect them personally. Being in an ongoing state of anxiety over COVID-19 can lead to an overproduction of the hormone cortisol, which is associated with increased aggression.
Domestic violence is more likely to occur in economically-stressed households. Studies from the 2008 recession found increases in unemployment claims correlated with a higher number of reported IPV cases. Today, the pandemic has caused job loss at levels comparable to those of the Great Depression.
Some abusers may also be affected by the perceived threat to their masculine identity when they lose their jobs. Job loss — and the perception of job loss as a personal failure to provide for their families — may prompt abusers to respond with violence to regain a sense of control in their lives.
Alcohol has a disinhibitory effect on aggression, and increased use is a key predictor of IPV. Alcohol sales have increased dramatically since Stay at Home orders went into effect, which may indicate that more people are drinking at home.
Lack of Support
It’s more difficult to take action against domestic violence during times of crisis. A lack of resources may contribute to IPV indirectly. Some courts may be delaying domestic violence cases, making it challenging for victims to get restraining orders. Legal aid organizations and advocates are also working remotely, and some judges may be reluctant to hold violent abusers in jail due to the increased risk of COVID-10 infections in state facilities.
Abuse shelters are also facing many obstacles. Because they often have dorm-life living arrangements, many are closing due to health concerns. Victims trying to avoid COVID-19 may also hesitate to go to a domestic violence shelter because of the high volume of people in close quarters.
Why is Child Abuse on the Rise During COVID-19?
Child abuse is on the rise for many of the same reasons as domestic violence. Stressed parents may unleash their stress through child abuse and neglect. Parents sheltering in place with their children also have limited resources to care for them. They can no longer send them to daycare or school, or to stay with a relative. Additionally, fewer social workers can do home visits, leaving many children stuck in volatile environments.
Talk to a Domestic Violence Lawyer in San Diego
Domestic violence cases are serious, and accusations of domestic violence should be handled by an experienced attorney who understands the delicate nature of these cases. If you’re accused of domestic violence, you could face several tough penalties that can hurt your reputation and future.
People who are convicted of domestic violence may lose their right to own a firearm and may be kept away from loved ones, including children, through domestic violence restraining orders. Talk to a San Diego domestic violence lawyer like Dod of Dod Law to understand the charges you’re facing. Attorney Dod has more than 17 years of experience helping people accused of crimes present proper defenses to protect their livelihoods in San Diego. Call (619) 814-5110 for a free case review or complete our contact form. We’re available to discuss your case 24/7.