The world is facing no shortage of crises because of coronavirus (COVID-19), just one of them being domestic violence, cases of which have continued to rise around the world since the start of the pandemic, particularly since quarantine, and it's simply an issue we cannot ignore.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), an average of "nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men."
Yes, 10 million people annually in the U.S. alone experience some form of domestic violence — that's 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men. The statistics, though, are no less striking when it comes to those who've experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (beating, burning, strangling), which affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men.
While there are many reasons for the increase in domestic violence, the pandemic has proven to be a big one. When U.S. states issued stay-at-home orders in early March, people were forced to quarantine. Because individuals living with abusive partners had less freedom to leave the house and more time to spend inside, domestic violence shelters and hotlines alike saw an increase in demand.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports it saw a 9% increase in total contacts (phone, online chat, and text) from March to May. Of these contacts, people reported the following:
90% Emotional/Verbal Abuse: Behavior that isn't physical, which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time.
61% Physical Abuse: Non-accidental use of force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. This may include being slapped, burned, cut, bruised, or improperly physically restrained.
24% Economic/Financial Abuse: When one intimate partner has control over the other partner's access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim's capacity to support themselves.
16% Digital Abuse: The use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner
11% Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual interaction through coercion, guilt, or force. This may include pressure to engage in sexual activity, refusal to use contraception, or demanding of sexual images or video.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, though, even though domestic violence hotlines prepared for the possible increase in cases, there was a drop in calls by 50% in some regions. The experts of these centers began to speculate the reason, which they realized may have had to do with the fact that these victims were stuck in quarantine with their abusers with no chance to escape to make a phone call for help. For this reason, women in France started using code words at pharmacies to report domestic violence.
The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, however, saw increased demand for 40% of its programs. According to Monica McLaughlin, their policy director, women's shelters have even had to turn away survivors because they have limited space (especially with having to maintain social distancing guidelines), which may be a contributing factor to the increase in calls at domestic violence and other helplines.
If you are in immediate danger (or someone you know is), call 911. Otherwise, for free confidential help, 24/7, you can call, online chat, or text the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. The Hotline provides the following services:
- Crisis intervention.
- Domestic violence education.
- Safety planning.
- Directly connecting callers to Service Providers such as local shelters.
- Referrals to agencies that provide legal, economic self-sufficiency, sexual assault, elder abuse, children's, and other related services.