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A Troubling Trend: Covid-19 and Domestic Violence

Updated: May 27, 2020

By: Emma Ahlert

**Trigger warning and disclaimer of inclusivity: This article discusses sexual and domestic violence. Although it’s important to note that sexual violence disproportionally impacts women, this article maintains gender neutrality whenever possible—both to recognize that men can be victimized, and to limit problematic trends of heteronormativity.

Predictions have been circulating that we’ll see a ‘baby boom’ nine months from now. This is plausible given factors like close (and unleavable) quarters, seemingly endless hours of spare time, and decreased access to essentials like contraception.  However, countries have noticed a much darker, more dangerous phenomenon impacting intimate partnerships across the globe. Violence between partners is on the rise, and only getting worse as the crisis continues. Domestic abuse can be defined as the pattern of “controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading, and potentially violent behavior from a partner or ex-partner” (Scottish Women's Rights Center). The National Domestic Helpline, which offers support for survivors of abuse in the UK, has reported a 25% increase in calls within just the first week of the lockdown (Grierson, The Guardian). Between March 26th and April 1st, Women’s Aid found a 41% increase in the use of the charity’s live chat service compared to one week earlier (Grierson, The Guardian). There is never an excuse for abuse or violence, but it is useful to consider why this phenomenon is occurring. Covid 19 has unearthed deep-rooted stressors like financial uncertainty from job-loss, young children home indefinitely from school, close and constant proximity, and a decline in health due to the virus. The New York Times equates this escalation in domestic abuse to an “opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic”(Taub, New York Times).

The United Kingdom is by no means alone in this. Spain’s Domestic Violence emergency hotline received 18% more calls in the first two weeks of the lockdown than in the same period a month earlier (Taub, New York Times). Reports of Domestic Violence have more than tripled in the Chinese Province of Hubei (Graham-Harrison et al., The Guardian). French police reported a nationwide spike of nearly 30 percent in domestic violence (Taub, New York Times). Keep in mind, these figures only account for situations in which victims could seek help and make a report. In many cases, abusers may forbid victims from leaving the house or from making phone-calls, a measure of control perpetuated by isolation. As such, activists predict an “explosive increase” in the number of reports once the lockdown restrictions are lifted (Graham-Harrison et al., The Guardian).

So, what can we do to help? Coping with isolation is hard enough as it is...the cancellation of momentous events, the distance from our friends and family, the loss of normalcy. It may feel heavy, stressful, and even helpless to know that while so much domestic violence is occurring, COVID 19 must be sorted before isolation can lift. Please know that in the meantime, there are ways to support one another, and small actions we can take which have the power to save lives. Firstly, take a moment to learn about and recognize potential signs of abuse. Abuse looks different for everyone, and can take the form of the financial, emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, digital, and more. Click Here to learn more about each type of abuse. Regardless of what form(s) of abuse you or someone you know is enduring, each type is valid, painful, and wholly undeserved. If you or someone you know is enduring an abusive situation whilst isolating during the crisis, there are a myriad of resources to help. Here is a list of services which are still open and operating. Each of these pages is equipped with an “exit” or “escape” button, so that users can instantly change their screen should an abuser walk in. 

In the midst of all this uncertainty, please never forget that love shouldn’t hurt - emotionally or physically. Whether we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, or living our normal lives - we each deserve supportive, healthy, and consistent love. Let’s utilize these resources and be hypervigilant in taking care of ourselves and those around us during -and long after- this crisis. 


cover image: Sydney Sims

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