Domestic Violence Surges Across US During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you're in an abusive relationship or are otherwise suffering from intimate partner violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233 or texting 1-800-787-3224. You may also find this page about the Texas Family Violence Program from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services helpful. Please stay safe.

Recent statistics released by several independent organizations and countries indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic is largely responsible for a surge in intimate partner violence incidents across the US and the world at large.

Today, we're taking a deep dive into how COVID-19 impacts domestic violence.

Our family lawyers have the capability to help you file for a restraining order or protective order. To learn more, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313. or via phone at (940) 293-2313.

Is COVID-19 Actually Causing the Rate of Intimate Partner Violence to Increase?

Statistics from the United States and across the world at large indicate that during the COVID-19 pandemic more incidents of intimate partner violence has occurred.

A study from the University of Texas at Dallas found that, when the city implemented a stay-at-home order, intimate partner violence increased by 12.5%. Other cities in the United States, like Chicago, have mirrored those statistics. In March, the Chicago domestic violence hotline received around 389 calls per week on average. By the first week of April, the number of average callers surged to around 549 per week. This increase in domestic violence is not unique to the United States. In Jingzhou, China, domestic violence calls in February 2020 to police officers increased by almost 300% when compared to February of the previous year.

Non-profit organizations and government institutes have taken note of this issue. United Nations Women released an official statement warning that the COVID-19 pandemic would disproportionately harm women, predicting an increase in intimate partner violence by 15-20% worldwide.

As states and countries continue to collect data about domestic violence, many expect to see more reports corroborating the statistics above regarding a rise in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

To dig into why COVID-19 could incite intimate partner violence, it is important to first understand the cycle of abuse. Various law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations break down the cycle into different steps, but it can generally be separated into three "phases:"

  1. The Honeymoon Phase: During the honeymoon phase, the abuser initiates a relationship with the victim. They will attempt to draw the victim into the relationship by being exceptionally charming. They will shower them with love and affection. During this phase, the abuser attempts to create the "perfect" relationship. However, as the abuser draws the victim in, they may also subtly begin to engage in abusive behavior. The abuser will also attempt to isolate the victim from their friends and family.

    Control plays a crucial role in an abusive relationship. The more isolated a person is, the less able they are to seek help. The abuser may make the victim feel guilty for spending time with friends and family and encourage that they always be together.
  1. The Escalation Phase: During the second phase, there will most likely be an abusive incident. Typically, an abuser will try to justify why the abuse should occur or did occur. To justify the abuse, they may get increasingly irritable over nonissues, such as household chores amongst other things.

    During this phase, the abuser often becomes increasingly emotionally and mentally abusive as they start to escalate to physical violence. They may try to isolate their partner financially and engage in behavior like gaslighting. This type of abuse further insulates the victim. Once the abuser believes the victim is completely under their control, they will often escalate to stage three.

Physical abuse often accompanies emotional abuse in this phase and can range from threats (punching a wall) to direct violence (slapping, choking, punching, etc.). Once the abuser commits a violent act, they often shift into the third phase fairly quickly.

  1. The Remorseful Phase. After committing a violent act, abusers often appear remorseful. They may tell their partner that they will "change" or that they "didn't mean it and it won't happen again." In truth, these are tactics the abuser uses to prevent the victim from reporting the abuse or attempting to escape.

The remorse phase also often coincides with a "repeat" of the honeymoon phase as the abuser further attempts to re-establish control over their victim. Once the abuser feels secure and in control, they will start to repeat the cycle.

The time it takes for the abuser to escalate to physical violence often decreases each time the cycle repeats. Additionally, the severity of the abuse typically increases.

How Quarantines and Stay-at-Home Orders Affect Domestic Violence

As previously mentioned, most cities and states have mandated the stay-at-home and quarantine orders to try and reduce the spread of the COVID-10.

The cycle of abuse tends to escalate in speed and severity with each repetition. Stay-at-home orders force victims to spend extended periods of their time with abusers and they are often far away from their family and friends. Shelters and organizations may also be seeing an increase in the amount of people they shelter due to people losing their jobs and may be at capacity. This is another factor that could further expedite the cycle of abuse.

Economic Instability and Other Factors Compound on the Issues

Stress plays a major role in intimate partner violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a significant amount of stress into the lives of many Americans.

Over 40 million US workers have found themselves unemployed as a result of the virus. Many of the workers who have retained employment are now working from home. Those who still go into work are typically employed as essential workers in markets like healthcare or hospitality.

In short, most workers in most industries are experiencing increased stress. Unemployed individuals have to deal with the burden of finding a new job. People working from home may have trouble adjusting with families, jobs, and technology. Essential workers feel pressured by the constant fear they could come into contact with the virus. Stress can have the ability to exacerbate already volatile personalities or relationships which can lead to outbursts and possible abuse.

Financial instability can also play a crucial role. Financial control is a defining characteristic of many abusive relationships. If a victim has no money or access to finances such as a party’s bank account or credit cards, it is incredibly difficult for them to access the help they need and escape abusive situations. Financial abuse can be a method of keeping a party in the dark.

All of the scenarios mentioned above can increase intimate partner violence. Individuals predispositioned to violence may be particularly on-edge right now, which further increases the likelihood of abuse. Victims might find themselves in positions where they have to rely on an abusive partner for their basic needs and lack the resources to seek help.

In the coming months, we can expect to see reports of increased intimate partner violence. Lawyers and law enforcement officers will need to prepare for this increase.

At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, our team helps victims of intimate partner violence in Texas receive the help they need once they are away from immediate danger. (Again, should you find yourself in immediate danger, reach out to your local law enforcement agency by dialing 911.) We can work with you to file a protective order, temporary restraining order or discuss other options to help you secure your ongoing safety.

To schedule a consultation or learn more about how our team can help you, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.

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