Why Domestic Violence Is on the Rise During the Pandemic

About a 4 minute read

By: Regina Boyle Wheeler

Here’s how victims of intimate partner violence can reach out for help.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are living under stay-at-home orders because of COVID-19. But for some victims of domestic abuse, home is not the safe haven it should be during this time of crisis. In fact, the pandemic has spawned a dangerous wave of intimate partner violence behind closed doors.

“We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19,” United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General António Guterres said in an April 2020 statement. “But they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the past weeks, as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence.”

Reports of domestic violence in France have increased 30 percent since the country went on lockdown in March, according to the U.N. They’ve also spiked in Argentina, Singapore and many other countries around the globe— and are expected to do the same in Australia.

Intimate partner violence
Cities across the U.S. are reporting more domestic violence calls to police, and many departments are expecting a surge in cases as stay-at-home orders drag on. In New York City, the epicentre of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, domestic violence officers have been conducting phone calls with abused partners, sharing safety plans and cell phone access with them, and carefully setting “code words” for them to signal abuse in close quarters.

According to 1800RESPECT During self-isolation people will find themselves at home with an abusive partner, and without access to their usual support. There are a number of things they can do to try and keep safe. It’s also important for people to keep in touch with their friends or family members who may be in an unsafe position.

Some of 1800 RESPECT Safety Planning tips
Contact 1800RESPECT by phone or web chat when it is safe to do so. Our counsellors are experienced in dealing with situations where the person using violence is still in the house, and will work with you on a safety plan Identify safe areas of the house where there are less dangerous items and may be ways to escape if possible.

Have a phone charged and accessible, with stored important numbers, and a back up phone if possible.

Call 000 at any time if you are in immediate danger and teach your children how to call 000 if you are unable to do so. You will have to notify the police if there are COVID19 concerns at your home.

Let trusted friends and neighbours know of your situation and develop a plan (this might include a code word or visual signal if you need help).

Make a habit of backing into the driveway and keeping the car fuelled 1800RESPECT will continue to operate as per usual during the COVID-19 health emergency. They are open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

When you need help
If you’re concerned about or have already experienced intimate partner violence during the pandemic, it’s important to have a strategy to remain safe while you’re at home or, if necessary, to leave. If you feel like you’re in immediate danger, call 000.

Unfortunately, the true extent of COVID-19’s impact on domestic violence probably won’t be known for some time.

Medically reviewed in April 2020

Sources:
United Nations. “Amid Global Surge in Domestic Violence, Secretary-General Urges Governments to Make Prevention, Redress Part of National COVID-19 Response Plans.” April 5, 2020.
United Nations. “The Shadow Pandemic: Violence Against Women and Girls and COVID-19.” April 6, 2020.
NBC News. “Police See Rise in Domestic Violence Calls Amid Coronavirus Lockdown.” April 5, 2020.
New York Police Department. “NYPD Announces Citywide Crime Statistics for March 2020.” April 2, 2020.
ABC News. “Dramatic increase in domestic violence calls to Chicago police over the last 3 weeks.” April 6, 2020.
Office of the Mayor of Chicago. “City of Chicago Partners with Lyft and Uber to Address an Increase in Victims Needing to Flee Violence.” April 9, 2020.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Intimate Partner Violence.”
National Domestic Violence Hotline. “The Hotline Commends Passage of the CARES Act.”
National Domestic Violence Hotline. “Staying Safe During COVID-19,” “Path to Safety.”
‘Violence, abuse and neglect and COVID-19’ Retrieved from. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/infectious/covid-19/pages/violence-abuse-neglect.aspx
1800RESCPECT information retrieved from https://www.1800respect.org.au/help-and-support/self-isolation-and-covid-19




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