2021 Mental Health Toolkit: COVID-19 & Domestic Violence
While the lockdown for COVID-19 was intended to keep people safe, for some it was a catalyst for domestic violence, with incidences of intimate partner violence and child abuse increasing across the globe when the pandemic hit. The stress of economic devastation, widespread uncertainty, health worries, and financial concerns combined would certainly exacerbate already existing conditions, if not lead to them. Paired with mandatory stay-at-home orders, they created the perfect set of circumstances for abuse.
Isolation & Domestic Violence
Isolation is one of the most powerful weapons of an abuser, who often seek to keep their victim away from friends or family out of control or in fear that they will tell them about the abuse. With community resources and support systems temporarily dismantled, domestic violence victims have had less resources to get help and have been trapped in dangerous situations. Additionally, there may not be a place for victims to flee to with movement restrictions in place and shelters at capacity (Healthline).
COVID-19 & Child Abuse
During the stay-at-home orders, parents lacked many of their support systems such as day-care, extended family, schools, or community organizations, adding to the array of pandemic stresses. Research shows that stressed parents are often more likely to respond with aggression or abusive tendencies and if children are required to remain indoors, the abuse can go undetected (SAMHSA).
The CDC notes the total number of emergency department visits related to child abuse and neglect decreased during the pandemic compared with 2019, but the percentage of such visits resulting in hospitalization increased (Center for Disease Control). This means abuse was more often leading to injury and going unreported due to a lack of intervention by school counselors or child protective services, who were also unable to conduct many house visits due to the stay at home orders.
International Increase in Domestic Violence During COVID
In a recent article published by BBC, they referred to domestic abuse as an ‘epidemic beneath a pandemic’, noting a 70% increase in calls to the British National Domestic Abuse Hotline compared to the year prior and increased statistics across the globe (BBC).
According to the United Nations group U.N. Women, incidents of domestic violence increased by 300% in Hubei, China; 25% in Argentina, 30% in Cyprus, 33% in Singapore and 50% in Brazil. Police departments in the United States reported an increase of 18% in San Antonio, TX, 22% in Portland, OR.; and 10% in NYC (Time). Additionally, the United Nations reports that some helplines increased five-fold during the pandemic.
Global Responses to Domestic Abuse
In May 2020, the United Nations launched a public awareness campaign focusing on the global increase in domestic violence amid the COVID-19 health crisis called the Shadow Pandemic. This campaign recognizes domestic violence as a massive global issue that has intensified since the pandemic began and calls on countries to include domestic violence in their COVID-19 response packages (U.N. Women).
The Biden Administration has acknowledged the need to bolster support efforts for victims of abuse and has included aid and housing assistance to victims who have been trapped during the pandemic in his latest COVID-19 Aid Package (New York Times). Similarly, the Australian government has responded by offering millions of aid to family violence support (Global Citizen).
While many other governments have stepped forward to raise awareness and offer assistance, some people have taken it into their own hands. In Poland, a young girl created a fake cosmetics website that was a front for people to discreetly report domestic abuse at checkout (BBC); in France, the equivalent of the #MeToo Movement has launched a campaign offering resources for domestic violence printed on bread bags to be distributed by bakeries (BBC); across the EU, countries have designated code words to be used at pharmacies.
Domestic Violence Resources
If you are a victim of domestic violence, below is a list of resources that can be of assistance. If you’d like to learn more about domestic violence, how to detect domestic violence and how to best offer support, check out this article.
● National Domestic Violence Hotline: Resources for all survivors; 24/7 hotline at 800-799-7233
● National Sexual Assault Hotline: Resources for all survivors of sexual assault; live chat online and 24/7 helpline at 800-656-4673
● Crisis Text Line: 24/7 text chat line for individuals in crisis in the United States and Canada; text HOME to 741741
● Local Resources for Domestic Violence
● Prevent Child Abuse America
BBC: Coronavirus: Domestic abuse an ‘epidemic beneath a pandemic’
BBC: Why this teen set up a prize-winning fake cosmetics shop
Center for Disease Control: Trends in U.S. Emergency Department Visits Related to Suspected or Confirmed Child Abuse and Neglect
Global Citizen: Strongest Evidence Yet Shows Violence Against Australian Women Has Skyrocketed During COVID-19
Healthline: Things to Know About Domestic Violence
New York Times: Biden’s Aid Package Funnels Millions to Victims of Domestic Abuse
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Intimate Partner Violence and Child Abuse Considerations During COVID-19
United Nations Women: Violence Against Women During COVID