How Coronavirus Could Exacerbate Domestic Violence ‘It’s Not Safe To Leave The House, And It’s Not Safe To Stay In The House.’
Coronavirus is exacerbating a problem that already exists and hasn’t been adequately addressed: Survivors of domestic violence cannot afford to leave the abuse,’ one advocate said.
Mentions of the new coronavirus have cropped up in calls, texts and online chats to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in recent days, as public-health experts urge social distancing and staying home to stem the disease’s spread.
One woman told an advocate that COVID-19 had impacted her plans to leave her relationship upon her graduation in May, according to excerpts from the hotline’s log shared with MarketWatch. Her abusive partner was now home 24/7 after being laid off from his job, she said, and had also prohibited her from going to work.
Domestic-violence advocates worry that confining people with their abusers could exacerbate the frequency and intensity of abuse, as the pandemic’s economic fallout further threatens survivors’ financial stability.
A female caller in California self-quarantining due to her asthma said she was afraid to go to the emergency room after her partner strangled her, citing fear of catching COVID-19. Another contact also expressed coronavirus-related misgivings about seeking medical care after being strangled; the person said they were taking online classes due to a college-campus closure, making it more difficult to maintain distance from their abusive partner.
“Tuesday of this week he threatened to throw me out if I didn’t work from home the rest of the week,” one contact said, according to the advocate log. “He demanded I stay in a hotel and said, if I started coughing, he was throwing me out in the street and that I could die alone in a hospital room. I feel like he will lock me out if I leave for work. My husband won’t let me leave the house.”
Domestic-violence advocates worry that confining people with their abusers could exacerbate the frequency and intensity of abuse, as the pandemic’s economic fallout further threatens survivors’ financial stability. Some people have even advocated for banning alcohol sales to reduce the potential for domestic violence in confinement.
“The CDC is encouraging folks to stay at home; self isolate,” Allison Randall, the vice president for policy and emerging issues at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told MarketWatch. “But home is not a safe place for survivors of domestic violence.”
Indeed, activists in China, where the disease caused by the novel coronavirus was first discovered in December, have told media outlets that reports of domestic-violence cases rose as residents faced lockdowns and quarantines in the epicenter of the outbreak.
Intimate-partner violence — that is, physical or sexual violence, psychological aggression or stalking by a current or former intimate partner — impacts millions of Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Around one in four women and one in 10 men over their lifetime have experienced physical violence, contact sexual violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, and reported an intimate partner-related impact, per a 2015 CDC report.
How the pandemic could make domestic violence worse
Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said that her organization didn’t necessarily expect to see new domestic-violence cases. But “our experience informs us that in homes where domestic violence is occurring and there is a negative financial impact or added stress in the home, we typically see a higher frequency of incidents of abuse and severity of abuse,” she said.
“With COVID-19, there’s both the physical isolation together but also increased stress and fear because we are experiencing a pandemic,” Sonya Passi, the founder and CEO of the organization FreeFrom, which works to establish financial security for domestic-violence survivors, said in an email. “This is a dangerous mix, which I expect will leave survivors in an incredibly difficult situation — it’s not safe to leave the house, and it’s not safe to stay in the house.”
Some advocates fear that abusers might wield the coronavirus pandemic as yet another means of control over their victims. Ray-Jones said she believed abusive partners might try to interfere with a person’s plans to stay safe during the current public-health emergency, such as by sharing misinformation to create fear or by not allowing them to wash their hands.
“If an abuser will take your checkbook from you so that you don’t have access to your own finances, if an abuser will take your cellphone and your keys, why wouldn’t they prevent you from having access to things that will ensure your healthiness?” said Ruth Glenn, the president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “That’s what power and control is about.”
– Market Watch