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Coronavirus Causes Jump in Domestic Violence Cases Nationwide


Since COVID-19 became widespread in the United States around mid-March, crime has generally trended downward in the country. With fewer people out and about, fewer crimes are being committed. Police departments, in an attempt to avoid further spreading the disease, have almost universally scaled back arrest numbers since the outbreak took hold. Domestic violence cases, however, have grown in most states since the outbreak began.

While people are confined to their homes and apartments, they are clearly less likely to go out and commit homicides and robberies. Fewer potential targets for criminals are out on the streets, and home invasions are obviously less likely to occur because people are almost constantly stuck in their houses since the stay-at-home orders became widespread. This trend doesn’t apply to all forms of crime, however. Confining family units to their respective homes means one might expect things to get far more tense in households with a history of domestic issues, and even create those issues in homes that had never had problems before.

Experts expected tensions to run high in households across the country and were correct. There’s a history of this phenomenon occurring around the time of natural disasters and major disruptions to public life. Especially because this was a time where people would be brought close together, the data that is coming out now seemed like a foregone conclusion to many.

Domestic violence calls and arrests took their first sizable leap following the initial stay-at-home orders issued by governors across the country from mid-March to the very beginning of April. Additionally, the National Domestic Violence Call Hotline has reported a jump in calls, as they have been receiving between 1,800 and 2,000 calls a day since mid-March. According to the hotline, those calling have cited COVID-19 as being a factor in or a cause of the incidents themselves.

Financial stress is a key piece of the puzzle to understanding why domestic violence is on the rise in the wake of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. With millions becoming unemployed in the past few weeks, few households—if any—are immune from the economic effects of the Coronavirus. Clearly, this is a major contributing factor in the rise in domestic violence across the country. Households under unprecedented financial stress may be consequently experiencing unprecedented interpersonal tension, leading to the sorts of spats that cause domestic violence calls. Those that have had issues with domestic violence before are similarly more likely to be having those issues re-emerge in the time of COVID-19.

Because the situation is so unique, many experts said prior to seeing data come in that there wasn’t really any precedent for knowing what would happen in this time. Despite not having hard data from any similar event, they almost universally predicted the rise in domestic abuse calls and arrests that we have seen occur nearly uniformly across the United States.

Alcohol can be seen as a potential additional factor in the rise of these sorts of cases. Despite stay-at-home orders, restrictions on alcohol purchases have been loosened in many states to help support restaurants and potentially keep them open through the length of the outbreak. With nowhere to go except a small house, the interpersonal effects of alcoholism will be magnified, as families will have to be face to face with its consequences. Due to such close confinement, many people may be coming to understand the full extent of their partner’s substance abuse issues for the first time. One can see how this might lead to greater tensions in households across the country, and therefore be partially responsible for the rise in calls that police departments have been seeing consistently.

Although calls to domestic abuse hotlines are rising during this time, calls to child abuse hotlines have dropped. In Missouri, calls to their hotline for child abuse and neglect dropped by half as the virus started to have major effects on public and private life. Although actual occurrences of child abuse are likely on the rise in concert with general domestic abuse calls, these child abuse calls are likely dropping in frequency also because of everyone’s close proximity. Advocates seem to believe that the calls were dropping because children are never away at school as schools across the country have been closed to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

The toll of these cases is potentially exacerbated during this time as well. Under normal circumstances, domestic abuse often occurs when kids are out of the house. Since COVID-19 has brought families under the same roof indefinitely, kids are seeing the full extent of their parents’ struggles unfolding in front of them. Domestic issues are far more complicated and are far more unlikely to directly affect everyone in the household during these times.

In addition to the massive leap in domestic violence calls—Phoenix saw 200 more calls in March 2020 than in March of 2019, up 6%—many believe that there is actually even more underreporting of these cases than usual. Because of the proximity it may be difficult for those calls to get made because those making credible reports likely fear what could happen to them were their family-member to find out that they were making that call.

If you are involved in such a case, law offices are an essential service that remain open for business during COVID-19. Many firms will be able to meet in person still, and can otherwise be reached over the phone and have the ability to work on cases remotely. Documents can be signed online and video conferencing options make working with a lawyer remotely feasible. From initial meetings down to payment, legal counsel for such cases or any other for that matter can be handled remotely.

Speak with DM Cantor if you or a loved one has been accused of domestic violence in Arizona.

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About the Author

I offer personalized legal aid in Forty Fort, PA. I'm specialize in a variety of case areas, including personal injury, slip and fall injuries, workers compensation, auto accidents, dog bite attacks, wrongful death and survival cases, and Social Security disability.

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