Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the globe are staying home in an attempt to prevent infection and transmission of the virus. However, home isn’t safe for everyone.
Data shows that the number of domestic violence cases is rapidly increasing worldwide as people quarantine. Officials in Spain reported an 18% increase in domestic violence calls during the first two weeks of their country’s lockdown. France’s interior minister claimed that reports of domestic violence incidents increased by 30% since the lockdown was enacted.
We are facing similar statistics in the U.S. In Texas, the city of Houston reported a 20% increase in domestic violence cases in March compared to February. And even though the total number of arrests has decreased year-over-year in Austin, domestic violence arrests increased by a staggering 17% compared to March 2019.
Why has this happened? And what can we do to stop domestic violence and help victims? These are questions that victims advocates are working tirelessly to figure out. Read on to learn more about the connections between domestic violence and COVID-19.
What’s the Correlation Between COVID-19 and Domestic Violence?
Why has the number of domestic violence cases risen so substantially? Experts say that the COVID-19 pandemic (and subsequent quarantine) has the potential to set off a number of common domestic violence triggers, including:
- Stress – There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has increased people’s stress levels. Similarly to increased stress levels after a natural disaster, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will increase stress levels in abusers, leading to domestic violence incidents.
- Financial strain or job loss – In the wake of the pandemic, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment, and others are experiencing reduced hours or salaries. Job loss has always been a domestic violence risk factor. The widespread financial strain caused by COVID-19 has contributed to the increased number of domestic violence cases.
- Substance abuse – As many find themselves jobless, or otherwise stuck at home, some will inevitably turn to alcohol or drugs for relief. This poses a distinct risk of increased domestic violence cases.
- Isolation – Isolation allows domestic abusers to assert total control over the victim in a way that is difficult to escape. Experts worry that the prolonged periods of isolation due to the COVID-19 quarantine have contributed to the increased domestic violence rate.
While these triggers certainly aren’t an excuse for domestic violence, they help mental health professionals better understand the causes of abuse in the home and how to treat the abusers.
Why COVID-19 is Especially Dangerous for Domestic Violence Victims
In addition to their increased risk due to external stressors, domestic abuse victims are finding it harder than ever to get help.
Victims may be further forced into isolation. Abusers may use the pandemic to frighten and control the victims into staying home, thus taking away their external support network. Air travel and public transportation restrictions can take away the resources a victim needs to flee.
Domestic violence victims may fear to go to a public shelter or resource center due to the risk of COVID-19 infection. Some victims have underlying health conditions that put them at risk and it would be unsafe for them to seek shelter in these places. And if they did make an attempt to reach out to one of these resources, they will find that many facilities are closed or understaffed and some aren’t accepting new intakes.
Resources for Victims
But all hope is not lost. Relief organizations recognize the link between COVID-19 and domestic violence and are working to adapt to the situation and support survivors.
If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends that you create or update your safety plan based on changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also recommended that you try to stay connected with your support group either online or over the phone so you have access to help when you need it.
If you are unable to speak safely, you can get in touch with a National Domestic Violence Hotline representative by logging on to their website or by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522.
Domestic abuse victims can also reach out to national and local organizations for help, including:
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
- Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474, 1-866-331-8453 (TTY)
- Victim Hotline: 1-855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
- Texas Advocacy Project: 800-374-HOPE (4673)
- Texas Legal Services Center Crime Victims: 844-303-SAFE (7233)
- Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse: 713-224-9911
How to Help Someone You Know Who is Experiencing Domestic Violence
Knowing that someone in your life is being abused is difficult to handle, but experts urge anyone thinking of intervening in a domestic violence situation to consider all factors before calling the police. Domestic violence victims may not be properly prepared to leave, and involving law enforcement before they are can limit their options and put them further at risk. Police involvement could also upset the abusive partner and cause a violent outburst.
Instead, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends that you:
- Talk to the victim – If you can, talk to the victim and help them create their safety plan.
- Keep records of the events – Keeping track of when and how a victim was abused can provide evidence to law enforcement when the victim does decide to move forward.
- Find a way to interrupt the event – Interrupting domestic abuse as it’s happening can save the victim from grave injuries. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests that if you live nearby, you can knock on the victim’s door and ask to borrow something.
- Reach out to state and local agencies – Reaching out to the appropriate authorities can help inform you of how to support the victim and your next steps.
When the victim is ready, offer your support to help them leave and get settled into their new residence. Once a domestic abuse survivor is free from their abuser, they should consider assessing their legal options.
Contact Expert Texas Domestic Violence Lawyers
We don’t tolerate any type of abuse at DC Law. Our attorneys are experts at child abuse, sexual and physical assault, and false imprisonment litigation. We’re determined to get domestic abuse victims the financial justice they deserve. Reach out today for a free case review.