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Domestic Violence Likely to Increase During Pandemic

Millions of Americans were ordered to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Anyone feeling sick was required to quarantine at home for up to 2 weeks. Even after the initial stay-at-home orders were suspended, many people switched to remote working, spending time at home and away from the office.

For victims of domestic violence, the COVID stay-at-home orders made their home-life even more dangerous. During the first year of the pandemic, from March 2020 to March 2021, overall reports of domestic violence increased by almost 6%.

Abuse Is More Likely During a Pandemic

The United Nations reported an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries after the COVID-19 outbreak. In some countries, calls to helplines increased 500%. To magnify the problem, many of the health and housing resources for domestic violence victims were diverted to COVID-19 relief.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at the very beginning of the lockdown, there were fewer reports of domestic violence but that may have been because it is more difficult for victims to call for help when their abusers are always around.

Of the calls that were received, some victims said their abusers were using COVID-19 as a basis for abuse, such as by forcing a victim to wash their hands until they bled or threatening to kick a victim out so that they would be exposed.

Other callers said their abusers were using the outbreak as a reason to control them and close them off from friends and family. The stay-at-home orders gave abusers more chances to control their victims, telling them they could not go out, couldn't go shopping alone, could not return go to work, and could not have contact with family.

Abuse Related to Stress and Financial Hardship

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many households reported an increase in adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. This increases the risk of financial abuse, where abusive partners monitor and restrict their victim's spending, disrupt remote working, or even take away stimulus checks.

Housing Concerns for Domestic Violence Survivors

Being forced to stay at home with an abuser made it more difficult for survivors to find housing alternatives. During the pandemic, many shelters had reduced capacity for victims of domestic abuse and families. The lack of safe and affordable housing is a barrier for many to leave an abusive relationship.

During the pandemic, evictions were paused for many people struggling to find affordable housing, providing temporary relief. However, the national eviction moratorium ended on August 26, 2021. Some states and cities further extended eviction moratoriums to allow residents additional time. Check your local eviction laws to see if you are eligible for housing relief or eviction protection.

Help Is Still Available for Victims

No matter what type of abuse is happening, it's extremely important that victims have the resources to help them, including access to shelters, hotlines, therapy, and counseling services. Resources may be more difficult to find during the pandemic but many resources are still available by phone and online.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also working on new strategies to help victims currently under shelter-in-place orders and similar lockdowns, such as help through chat services. Many legal aid clinics and family law attorneys have transitioned to offering more legal services remotely.

Related Resources:

The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health has additional COVID-19 resources for victims of domestic abuse.

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