During the COVID-19 pandemic, calls to helplines involving domestic violence became about five times more frequent. 243 million women and young girls can experience intimate partner violence in a single year, but is there anything that can be done to help?
There has been a significant uptick in domestic violence cases since 2020. San Antonio, CA experienced an 18% increase in family violence calls while New York, NY saw a 10% increase in domestic violence reports. Downloads of spyware used for cyberstalking also increased. 7% of Americans have been the victim of cyberstalking with many of them being women. Unfortunately, only 24% of those who were arrested for serious stalking issues were convicted.
Minorities experienced higher rates of abuse, as much as 50% or even more. These marginalized groups were heavily affected by the pandemic in terms of infection rates and unemployment as well.
There are several factors contributing to the uptick in abuse. One of them is increased stressors, like concerns about security, health, unemployment, and cramped living situations. Another factor is increased opportunity for abuse due to being isolated at home with abusers, having movement restricted due to lockdown, and going to deserted public places.
Having fewer safeguards is also one of the big factors. People like teachers, child care providers, and clinicians have less in-person visits with families. Varying reporting options from precinct to precinct as well as a shift to telemedicine that reduces the ability for safe screening, causing victims to be overheard or lack access to telehealth contribute to growing abuse cases.
The majority of people receiving injuries from their partners do not receive medical care for their injuries as only 34% accept care. In fact, about half of domestic violence incidents do not get reported. One of the reasons is the social pressure surrounding the issue as many victims feel uncomfortable reporting, especially when they are pressured by the people they love to stay or live in a small community that lacks privacy.
Another reason is that the psychological impact caused by abuse can make it harder to leave, especially when the victims are isolated from family and friends while experiencing a loss of confidence and self esteem due to prolonged abuse. Furthermore, a “make-up” tactic creates a bond between the abuser and the victim that makes the victim believe the abuse is just momentary.
The fear of losing their partner’s support is a strong determining factor of whether to leave or stay. Leaving a partner could possibly mean losing financial support, immigration status, or even the custody of children.
More than half of women in domestic violence shelters were controlled by their abuser to stay by threatening, hurting, or even killing the victim’s pet as they decide to not leave their pets. Unfortunately, 52% of victims had to escape without their pets while 25% of victims eventually went back to their abuser due to their concern for their pets.
With domestic violence being so prevalent at the moment, is there a way to stop it? It can be helpful to spot the warning signs early as domestic violence usually doesn’t start right away. These could include threatening violence against pets, loved ones, or you, intentionally damaging your belongings, preventing you from working, or blaming you for a multitude of issues.
In terms of domestic abuse, it’s best not to ignore it. 19% of people know someone close who has suffered from domestic violence. 17% know someone who has used some form of domestic violence on someone else.
It is important to contact the police if you believe someone is experiencing domestic abuse or might be in danger. It is beneficial to write down any incident you witness as well as being available to listen to possible victims without any judgment. Checking in regularly can also be helpful. If someone you know is thinking about escaping abuse, it’s best to keep a phone with you at all times, have gas on-hand, or offer to do legwork.
Helping to raise awareness for domestic violence in your community, donating to shelters and similar organizations, as well as avoiding graphics or content that glorify violence are just a few actions you can take to act against domestic violence.