By Alexandra Saffa-Hoethke, editor
Thu April 16, 2020
(GWUOHS) — Schools are dismissed, work is postponed, and doors are closed. As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads globally, another public crisis arises – domestic abuse. The intentions of the mandatory stay-at-home court orders and lockdowns work in the interest of public health; however, leave a vast majority in danger. Victims of physical, domestic, sexual, and psychological abuse are now trapped at home with their abusers. The mandatory regulations implemented worldwide aberrantly affect those who face domestic abuse and seclude them from outside resources that would ordinarily provide them relief and safety.
Children who find sanctuary at school with their teachers and counselors are now sheltered at home, some with their comforting families, while others with their abusers. In bedrooms and corners, children hide from the dangers they face at home and count the minutes until the day arrives when they can return to school for safety and resources. Teachers and counselors routinely check-in with their students and report any concerns; however, at present, abused children are now separated from their safety outlets and are consequently confronted with their abusers at home more so than usual. The rising cases of child abuse are increasingly untold and unreported due to the circumstances brought forth by Covid-19.
Household dysfunction caused by substance abuse, mental disorders, or domestic violence also contributes to the rise in child abuse risks. As the time spent confined at home progress, financial issues arise, and resources become limited. With approximately 22 million Americans filing for unemployment within the last four weeks, families across the nation are facing substantial economic hardships. The functionality of family dynamics and the status of financials are closely correlated.
Professor Claire M. Renzetti conducted a research application titled “Economic Stress and Domestic Violence,” where she further analyzed the relationship between economic hardship and domestic violence against women. Through her evaluation of research studies, Professor Renzetti concluded a strong correlation between “financial status and a woman’s risk for domestic violence victimization.” Those who withhold the financial ability to access resources such as shelter away from home or specialized health care professionals are less likely to face high cases of domestic violence in comparison to families that receive low financial income.
According to a data analysis study confirmed by the National Crime Victimization Survey, the rates of domestic violence cases in households is five times greater in comparison to households with low annual incomes. Therefore, domestic violence cases against women within households that suffer from financial hardship consequently face physical and psychological effects.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines intimate partner violence (IPV) as behaviors derived from a partner such as sexual violence, physical violence, emotional or psychological violence concerning control of the decisions and actions of the victim, and to access financial resources. Partners who are otherwise capable of maintaining abusive behavior may experience a change in behavior once confronted with financial hardships and consequently increase abusive behaviors. While studies support the relationship of economic difficulties and increased domestic violence cases, the current regulations enforced in response to Covid-19, such as stay-at-home orders and millions suffering from unemployment, further expose victims to their abusers.
According to a report acquired by the New York Times, victims across the globe are especially affected by Covid-19 and the increased time spent at home. Women’s associations in Spain have reported cases of women trapped at home with their abusers, desperately desiring safety. One of the victims reported that her partner repeatedly abused her, and despite locking herself in a room, her abuser consistently hit the door until she opened it. Published by the New York Times, the woman stated through a message, “I can’t even have privacy in the bathroom — and now I have to endure this in a lockdown.”
Similarly, in China, the New York Times reported a woman who has encountered more arguments with her husband than usual due to the increased time spent at home. Consequently, she was beaten with a high chair while holding her infant. She reported losing the feeling in her legs and falling against the floor, all while bearing her daughter in her arms.
At present, with people in lockdown, hotlines amply light up with reports of domestic abuse. Within a span of fourteen days, out of the typical 2,000 calls received by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 951 of the callers mentioned the implications of Covid-19 as a contributor to their domestic abuse. While many cases go untold and kept within the lives of victims, sizeable metropolitan police departments reported data to CNN that demonstrated double-digit percentage increases in domestic violence-related cases in March in comparison to previous data reports.
Activists have globally reported a substantial rise in domestic violence cases due to the Covid-19 regulations. Activists advocate for local authorities and courts to prioritize those in domestic violence situations and those prone to experiencing abuse. Furthermore, with the rise in gun sale purchases breaking records, activists stress the need for further immediate protection. While resources and safety may seem impossible to acquire, some organizations are accommodating to provide safety to victims who currently face difficult situations at home. Victims can find support by calling or texting the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
For more information regarding resources and support, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
National Domestic Violence Hotline Statement: “Users should be aware and mindful that text messages sent using modern smart phones are saved indefinitely and could compromise their safety. Users concerned for their physical safety and well-being are encouraged to contact The Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.”
Furthermore, there are numerous ways to ensure the safety of victimized women, men, and children. Those who are concerned about the safety of others can use technology for virtual check-ins, report any signs of distress, and provide acts of support by delivering household necessities to ease the financial burdens many households currently face.
Not only is Covid-19 taking the lives of loved ones and damaging the economy, but also leaving lasting physical and psychological effects on millions worldwide.