If you're currently suffering from domestic violence, please consider calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or texting the hotline at 1-800-787-3224. Alternatively, you may find this website by the Virginia Department of Social Services, or this list of resources by DomesticShelters.org, helpful. Please stay safe.
At this point, it's probably easier to list the ways COVID-19 hasn't impacted our lives. From work to school to personal life, the coronavirus pandemic has completely restructured how Americans conduct themselves.
In a recent blog, we wrote about how COVID-19 may spike the divorce rate. Now, legal scholars and domestic violence experts fear COVID-19-related lockdowns may impact the US in a more somber way, leading to a rise in domestic violence across the nation and globe. Today, we're exploring the factors that could lead to more incidents of intimate partner violence in the US during the time of COVID-19.
Why Would COVID-19 Cause Domestic Violence Rates to Increase?
According to domestic violence advocates, COVID-19-related quarantines and lockdowns could be at the center of escalating domestic violence rates across the US and other parts of the world.
Abusers often follow a pattern, known as the "cycle of domestic violence" by advocates. Typically, the cycle looks something like this:
- The honeymoon phase. In this phase, the abuser tries to lure the survivor/victim in by creating a relationship that seems "too good to be true." They may be charming and generous during this period.
- The escalation phase. During the escalation phase, abusers start to show signs of abusive behavior and try to find a way to "justify" their abuse. They may start controlling the people their partner sees or their finances. They may also become increasingly angry at small "offenses" or things that are complete nonissues, such as the survivor/victim waiting "too long" to do the dishes or "failing to keep the house clean." The abuser may constantly "shift the goalposts" of their expectations, so the survivor/victim feels like they can never please them.
- The abuse incident. Once the abuser has control over the survivor/victim, they commit the act of abuse. Abuse can take multiple forms, including verbal and physical.
- The remorse phase. After committing an act of abuse, abusers often act remorseful. They may promise the survivor/victim that they'll "change." They may employ many of the same tactics they used during the honeymoon phase to try and keep the survivor/victim in a relationship and prevent them from taking action against the abuse. At this point, the cycle starts to repeat.
Domestic violence experts and advocates worry that COVID-19-related quarantines and stay-at-home orders could force abusers and survivors/victims to spend more time together, increasing the speed with which the abuser moves through the phases of the cycle. Since abuse often escalates in severity each time the cycle repeats, that could be devastating for survivors/victims in abusive relationships.
Are There Statistics Showing an Increase of Domestic Violence During COVID-19?
In Jingzhou, a city in China, police received 300% more domestic violence calls in February 2020, when the city was under quarantine for COVID-19, than they did in February 2019. A study by the University of Texas at Dallas recently found that domestic violence incidents increased by 12.5% while Dallas' own shelter-at-home order was in place. Finally, United Nations Women issued an official statement warning that women could suffer disproportionately from COVID-19 due to increased domestic violence rates during quarantines and stay-at-home orders.
Cities are caught in between a rock and a hard place here. Shelter-at-home orders help prevent residents from contracting COVID-19, so cities will continue to order them as long as the virus continues to spread. Unfortunately, survivors/victims could pay the price. Domestic violence lawyers and law enforcement professionals will need to brace themselves for an increase in domestic violence cases as 2020 continues and shelter-at-home orders for many of the world's largest cities remain in place.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we help survivors/victims receive the legal counsel they deserve, working with them to pursue legal measures like protective orders against abusers.