COVID-19 is causing cases of intimate partner violence to surge

If you or someone you know is a victim of Intimate Partner Violence, please do not hesitate to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline by visiting http://thehotline.org/ which allows for quick, safe exit from the site OR you can text LOVEIS to 22522 or call 1-800-799-7233, both of which have 24/7 assistance to connect you to local resources or support.

In March 2020, as cases of COVID-19 began to spread around the world like rapid fire, protective measures meant to keep us safe from the virus were implemented, leading to the eventual shut down of offices, restaurants, schools, and more to encourage us to stay in our homes and away from each other. These policies are important and necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives.

However, for hundreds of thousands of victims of domestic violence, or IPV (“intimate partner violence”), a more sinister threat lives within their homes. More time trapped inside with increasingly abusive partners became the “new normal”.

Studies have shown that times of crisis lead to an increase in violence against women,[1] and this pandemic, being a disastrous confluence of a health, economic, and social crisis, has been no exception. Prior to the pandemic, the United States was already grappling with high levels of IPV, which affected 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men.[2] Since lockdown measures were put in place, countries around the world have seen a drastic spike in reports of IPV to police, domestic homicides, and calls to IPV hotlines.

Abusers that may have already had issues with anger management are now also dealing with the financial insecurity the pandemic has brought about, being cooped-up inside for months, and anxiety from the virus’ spread, and quarantine measures mean their partners are often forced to be the only outlet for their rage. The Washington Post recently published several chilling accounts of victims who have suffered intense abuse and violence during the pandemic with nowhere to turn.

In December, the net 140,000 jobs that were lost in the United States were all by women, in particular women of color.[3] Men gained 16,000 jobs overall, and white women also made gains. IPV disproportionately affects women of color[4] and the additional damage the pandemic has done on communities of color means that even more potential victims of IPV have lost the financial independence that would have otherwise helped them escape an abusive partner.

People suffering from IPV are also more isolated than ever. [4] The communities and social networks they may have once been able to turn to for support are harder to reach given social distancing guidelines and fear of virus transmission. Shelters and hotels, both options for alternative housing, have reduced capacity. Hospitals have also reduced capacity or have transitioned to virtual appointments, making it harder for healthcare providers to spot physical signs of abuse. Finally, remote learning limits opportunities for children to confide in other adults about an abusive home environment, either between their parents or directed towards themselves.

Among the many challenges this pandemic has brought about, the increase in IPV is one that we can all work to stop. Make an effort to stay in touch with friends who are in potentially abusive relationships and make sure to heed warning signs, even when cries for help are not explicitly stated. In some areas, calls to IPV hotlines have actually dropped by more than 50%. [4] Experts believe this is due to fewer opportunities for victims to safely reach out for help given their abusive partners’ close watch on them. Also keep in mind that men and people in same-sex relationships can also be victims of IPV.

By offering financial resources, your home for temporary housing, or even just emotional support, you can help someone free themselves from an abusive partner and live the life that they deserve.

[1]   ENARSON E. Violence Against Women in Disasters: A Study of Domestic Violence Programs in the United States and Canada. Violence Against Women. 1999;5(7):742-768. doi:10.1177/10778019922181464

[2] Truman, Jennifer, and Rachel  Morgan. “Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003–2012.” Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Apr. 2014, www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ndv0312.pdf.

[3] Kurtz, Annalyn. “The US Economy Lost 140,000 Jobs in December. All of Them Were Held by Women.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Jan. 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/01/08/economy/women-job-losses-pandemic/index.html?utm_term=link&utm_content=2021-01-08T22%3A29%3A01&utm_source=twCNN&utm_medium=social.

[4] Evans, Megan L., et al. “A Pandemic within a Pandemic – Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, Massachusetts Medical Society, 10 Dec. 2020, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2024046.

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