The Relationship Between COVID-19 and Domestic Abuse: Here’s What You Need to Know

The relationship between COVID-19 and diminishing mental health has gotten a lot of attention in the media lately, which is certainly positive. However, there’s a dark to side COVID-19 that many are still unaware of — a side that goes hand-in-hand with rising stress levels.

For many being told to stay home is an inconvenience. For others, the need to stay home is causing anxiety over financial uncertainty — and then there are those that are victims of domestic violence and abuse. For these individuals, being home isn’t exactly a safe option.

As Stress Levels Increase, Rising Cases of Domestic Abuse Follow

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some degree of violence from an intimate partner. Sadly, violence in the home not increases the risk of injury and death, but can also lead to adverse health and mental health conditions, ranging from PTSD to a higher risk of chronic disease.

A necessary period of social distancing and quarantine, due to COVID-19, has experts concerned that rates of domestic abuse will significantly increase. In some cases, based on the unprecedented stress caused by the pandemic, violence may become an issue in homes where it wasn’t a concern before.

Current isolation measures paired with greater exposure to economic and psychological stressors, as well as negative coping mechanisms (i.e. excessive alcohol consumption), may trigger a wave of intimate partner violence. As reported by the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, “We are seeing big spikes.”

In British Columbia, Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services have seen a 300-percent increase in calls over the past three weeks. It’s been reported that 40 percent of callers are reaching out for the first time amid the current pandemic. Hearing from co-workers, neighbors, and even children as young as 12-years-old, many are currently in unsafe situations.

Similar reports have been made across the world, as domestic abuse killings have more than doubled in the UK; domestic violence cases have tripled in China; and in the United States, although total crime has fallen, domestic violence continues to climb.

Children Are Also At Greater Risk of Abuse During COVID-19

In a recent report, published in Forensic Science International, it was stated that in addition to adult victims of family violence, children and pets reside in 60 percent or more households where domestic violence is present. These children are at risk of significant emotional and physical harm and given current school closures, abusers may target these easy-to-control victims.

Pet abuse is also an indictor of abuse severity, as nearly 80 percent of victims who reside in a home where both pet abuse and domestic violence co-occur report daily fear that they will be killed by their abuser.

For children who are abused, teachers are their number one support system to disclose their experiences — and that resource has been taken away. This is causing immense concern, as childhood abuse continues to rise, in addition to online child sexual exploitation. During COVID-19, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has recorded a 106 percent increase in CyberTipline reports of suspected cases.

To access more resources, please check out this page by End Violence Against Children.

Read more: National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Building Strong and Thriving Families

If you require any support during this time, do not hesitate to call our emergency line: (800) 859-5553.

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