Domestic violence is a common problem across all of America. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been unexpected effects on domestic violence. Here’s what to know about domestic violence during COVID-19.
Domestic violence reporting rates have fallen during the pandemic, due to the fact that victims feel less safe reporting domestic violence when confined at home with their abuser. In-person opportunities for victims to seek help have decreased, and the economic effects of the pandemic have made it more difficult for victims to reach financial independence. There are still many resources available for victims to get the help they need, and loved ones can still reach out to organizations to help.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship where one partner controls another partner. There are many types of abuse that fall under the category of domestic violence:
- Physical abuse occurs when the victim is physically injured by their partner.
- Sexual abuse occurs where the abuser forces the victim into having sexual contact without the victim’s consent.
- Emotional abuse occurs when the abuser emotionally manipulates or degrades the victim through threats, intimidation, or insults. .
- Economic abuse occurs when the abuser denies the victim financial independence.
Victims may experience abuse that does not fit into these categories. Anyone can be a victim or abuser, regardless of race, gender, religion, economic background, or any other category. One in 4 women and one in 10 men experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime.
How COVID-19 Has Affected Domestic Violence
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, rates of reported domestic violence fell by nearly 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the reality is that rates of domestic violence have not fallen, only that more victims are unable to safely connect with domestic abuse services. Stay-at-home orders mean that partners are spending more time together at home, and victims have much less privacy to seek help. As a result, fewer and fewer victims feel safe enough in their own homes to report domestic violence, leading to lower reporting rates.
The pandemic has limited the opportunities for victims to use domestic abuse resources. Abusers may be taking advantage of the stay-at-home orders to control their victims’ freedom to leave the home. Many police departments require in-person visits to report domestic abuse, and many trial courts that determine restraining orders also require the same in-person filing.
Clinics and hospitals have been safe haven for victims of domestic abuse. Private physical examinations can reveal a lot about a victim’s safety at home and medical professionals are trained to provide discreet support. In these settings, victims can get the private support they need. However, the opportunities to receive private medical care have also been limited for COVID-19 safety purposes. The shift to telehealth has severed an important lifeline for victims of domestic abuse. Abusers may be listening to private conversations or intimidating the victim off-screen.
Financial dependence on an abusive partner is a common reason why victims do not leave their abuser. It is difficult to leave a dangerous situation without the proper financial resources to rely on. Even before the pandemic, achieving financial independence to leave abusers was difficult for victims. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more issues, like job loss and unemployment, that can be barriers to escaping an abusive relationship.
Resources for Victims of Domestic Abuse
If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, these resources are ready and able to provide you with the support and resources you need.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE, text LOVEIS to 22522, or chat online.
- Alliance for Hope International: Resource centers all across the United States.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741.
- National Parent Hotline: Call 1-855-427-2736.
- Local resource centers often can provide localized and personal care.
How You Can Help a Loved One
Being attentive and an ally is the best way you can support a loved one who is experiencing domestic abuse. Even if they may not directly tell you about their abuse, watch out for key warning signs. Warning signs of abuse include:
- Physical signs like injuries. Your loved ones may try to cover up their signs with clothing.
- Emotional signs like anxiety or depression.
- Behavioral signs like a sudden change in personality.
If you are worried about your loved one, you can seek help on their behalf. The resources listed above can help you support your friend and help them get out of a dangerous situation.
How can I help my loved ones who are experiencing domestic abuse?
The best way to help a loved one who is experiencing domestic abuse is to watch out for warning signs and reach out to domestic abuse resources. Warning signs of domestic abuse include physical signs like injuries, emotional signs like anxiety or depression, and behavioral signs like a sudden change in demeanor. Reach out to resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the Alliance for Hope International for guidance in helping your loved one.
Related: Domestic Violence Laws in California
How has COVID-19 affected domestic violence?
Domestic violence reports have gone down during the pandemic, but this decrease in reporting is most likely due to victims no longer being able to safely report domestic abuse. Being confined to the same home means victims rarely have privacy to contact domestic abuse resources for help. The pandemic has also limited opportunities for victims to reach out to safe havens in person, like police departments and hospitals. Lastly, the economic effects of the pandemic have left victims in a difficult financial situation that makes it harder for them to leave their abusers.