The coronavirus is doubly dangerous for victims trapped at home with their abusers and isolated from resources that can help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that in the U.S. a growing number of callers say that their abusers are using COVID-19 as a means of further isolating them from their friends and family. It is also being used as a weapon to threaten to throw them out on the street so they get sick. Some are even withholding financial resources or medical assistance.
Gun sales are surging nationwide, growing unemployment rates is leading to an increasing in alcohol use disorder, social ties have severed relief networks, victims cannot meet with their case workers, and as the number of infected police officers rises, victims can no longer reliably provide a pause by intervening in fights where guns are pointed and knives are drawn. Neither can they resort to a court for a restraining order, as many courts are closed. And women who are able to get to a women’s shelter or transition house, overcrowding risks their doors closing if the risk of infection is too high.
Project Sanctuary reports that on average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States, and on a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. The majority of victims are women and children.
If in normal times reliable statistics are hard to come by, during a health pandemic lockdown they are extremely elusive. I have been unable to find any specific numbers of domestic violence cases or statistics for the United States.
According to Mother Jones,domestic violence 911 calls or domestic violence hotlines are increasing. For example:
- In Seattle, Washington State, 22% more domestic violence calls were received than in during the same period last year.
- In San Antonio, Texas, 21% more.
- In Portland, Oregon, 27% more.
- In Cincinnati, 30% more.
Some cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Denver, have had no notable increases in domestic violence call volume in recent weeks. But throughout the country, local domestic violence hotlines are reporting a spike in calls. This raises a serious concern about whether victims are not reporting, or not able to, and about how many injured victims are not going to a hospital for help because they’re afraid of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
On Monday, March 23, 25 senators, both Republican and Democrat, signed a bipartisan letter
to the Department of Health and Human Services asking the department ensure that anti–domestic violence and anti–sexual violence programs have the “resources and information” they will likely need during the pandemic. But it creates no provisions to actually ensure that these resources are allocated.
Please take the time to locate the number and/or email of a domestic violence hotline in your state. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact that hotline.
Keep in mind that, as pointed out by Val Kalei Kanuha, assistant dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Washington's School of Social Work, not all victims of domestic abuse have access to websites, the phone or other people, friends, coworkers or neighbors. So if you fear for their safety, reach out to them and call a hotline. And if you work together, call them under the guise of a work matter and ask how they're doing. But remember to listen rather than responding right away.
You can find a list of resources at the end of this CNN article: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/27/health/domestic-violence-coronavirus-wellness-trnd/index.html