As the Domestic Violence Hotlines prepared for calls to increase during the pandemic, they discovered they weren’t prepared for what was to happen. Calls decreased during the pandemic; in some regions, the calls decreased by more than 50%.
Experts in the field knew that domestic violence rates had not decreased, but victims could not connect with services safely. Not only might victims of violence live in areas with unreliable internet or cellular service, but abusers might be listening in on conversations, leaving patients unable to disclose escalating abuse at home. During the lockdown, victims had fewer contacts with medical professionals, friends, or co-workers who could recognize the abuse and connect them with resources to help them.
Multiple studies have confirmed domestic violence increased during the pandemic. A study released by HealthDay News on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, showed X-ray evidence points to pandemic lockdowns triggering a surge in domestic violence cases. Data from a major Massachusetts hospital found a significant year-over-year jump in intimate partner violence cases among patients — nearly all women — who sought emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic’s first few weeks.
WebMD most accurately explains why domestic violence increased, “The person choosing to use violence — the perpetrator — employs violence as a tool to establish and maintain power and control over their partner. That need for power is, in part, a reflection of the lack of power they feel over their environment. COVID has brought with it just about every uncertainty any of us can imagine: Will we lose our jobs? Be furloughed? When will be allowed to go back to work or school? Can I make my rent payment? And on and on. The uncertainty is likely to wallop abusers. That lack of control each of us are feeling is likely to be amplified for the abuser, and so they amplify their violence.”
Economic independence is a critical factor in violence prevention. For many people who experience domestic violence, the financial entanglement with an abusive partner is too convoluted to sever without an alternative economic support source. The pandemic has exacerbated financial entanglement by causing increased job loss and unemployment, thus trapping victims further in domestic violence.
The pandemic challenges have been increasingly difficult for women in domestic violence and women who are survivors of domestic violence, but on their own now, to get the help they need. The stay-at-home orders triggered feelings for survivors of formally being trapped in DV, causing many repressed emotions and trauma wounds to open up.
At Called to Peace Ministries, we have been active during the pandemic to reach and serve domestic violence victims and survivors by providing emergency funding, free counseling, online support groups, a Facebook group, live interviews, and conferences. All to train and educate women, people helpers, counselors, and church leaders to assist and serve women in domestic violence.
“This data confirms what we suspected,” said study co-author Mardi Chadwick Balcom. “Being confined to home for a period of time would increase the possibility of violence between intimate partners.”