As the nation grappled with the spread of COVID-19 from March 2020, Americans were forced to stay at home to enhance the safety of everyone. However, for victims and survivors of domestic violence, being home jeopardized their safety in multiple ways. Moreover, the unprecedented stress of the global pandemic triggered unsafe situations in homes where violence was not an issue before.
The heightened domestic violence in homes has also lead to adverse health and mental health conditions, including high risks of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic disease, and risky sexual and substance use behaviors.
Why Cases of Domestic Violence Increased During the Pandemic
Quarantine was necessary to minimize the community spread of the Coronavirus, but it also had severe psychological and social consequences. The quarantine paradox triggered a surge in the cases of gender-based violence. Similar to the historical pandemics and epidemics, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an alarming rise in cases of gender-based violence, particularly during the first year of the pandemic.
According to many studies, the lockdown imposed to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus granted greater freedom to abusers. It became easier for domestic violence perpetrators to enforce control tactics by limiting their victim’s access to phones, the internet, and friends or family members. Additionally, the lockdown limited familiar support options.
There were also concerns about declaring the sale of guns as essential services in certain states of the United States. This increased the risks of fatal interpersonal violence. Besides, many victims were reportedly scared of visiting hospitals for treatment due to the fear of contracting the coronavirus disease.
Key Takeaways From COVID-19 Pandemic and Domestic Violence
Lost income and employment were among the leading factors that fueled the increase in domestic violence cases during the pandemic. More than ten studies that assessed risk factors indicated that being married, food insecurity, unemployment (for either the spouse or respondent), reporting lost household income, and spousal substance abuse behaviors increased risks of domestic violence. Protective factors pointed out included higher education levels for either the husband or wife and women’s employment.
Additionally, stress, reduced access to vital services, and the disruption of social and protective networks exacerbated the risk of violence, especially for women and children. As distancing measures were put in place and people were encouraged to stay at home, there was a heightened risk of intimate partner violence in homes.
For example, the risk of abuse for women and children in abusive relationships increased dramatically since family members had to spend more time in close contact during the lockdown. Besides, there was additional stress and potential job or economic losses.
As an ongoing study, very few papers evaluated the effective measures to reduce the risk of violence or support to survivors. Only one study provided evidence on the effects of interventions during COVID-19. A study from Bolivia revealed that a youth empowerment program helped reduce multiple types of violence suffered by adolescent girls.
The study adds to a handful of global studies that inform domestic violence prevention policy and programming.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the spread of the Coronavirus created a myriad of problems, especially for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
In the absence of vaccines and effective treatment for the first year of the pandemic, governments were forced to impose quarantines to minimize the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, that approach resulted in a paradox of quarantine and social distancing, triggering issues such as economic instability, isolation, and mental health problems.
COVID-19 has not only fueled gender-based violence but has also disconnected victims and survivors from their support networks. In order to minimize the prevalence of the problem, it’s crucial to acknowledge the extent of domestic violence, reconfigure government policies, and establish support networks and make them easily accessible to victims.
The family law attorneys at Minella Law Group have much experience dealing with the many issues that face families in todays current climate. Contact our attorneys if you think you need legal guidance or help.