Writer & Editor, The Paper
Published on November 16, 2021
Domestic abuse, specifically intimate partner violence (which occurs between romantic/sexual partners), has increased globally since the pandemic has first started. Advocates of domestic abuse have speculated that this would happen because staying at home in close quarters to family can prime a person well to commit domestic abuse. “[E]conomic hardship, increased stress, and new barriers to reporting violence […]” have all been reasons for why domestic abuse has risen. According to an article by Global Citizen, domestic violence has increased 8.1% in the United States during the pandemic.
In light of Domestic Awareness Month, it is important to state that domestic abuse can be more than just physical but emotional, financial, sexual, verbal, and psychological. Recognizing all the forms of domestic abuse helps us not misrepresent the issue and realize how complex it is. It is also important to note that domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class. It is also a consistent pattern of abuse.
With this in mind, we must consider who, if applicable, is being affected the most and what can be done to minimize the increase in domestic abuse. It is well-documented that one in 4 women face intimate partner violence and men one in 10. This is important because both men and women are socialized in different ways that could put them in different roles relating to domestic abuse such as women being socialized to ignore and not confront men who are making them uncomfortable in a myriad of ways.
As easy as it is to say that victims should just leave abusive relationships, victims of domestic abuse, especially women of color and those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, may feel stuck in these abusive relationships. Women of color and LGBTQ+ members may feel stuck more than others because of “[e]conomic instability, unsafe housing, neighborhood violence, and lack of safe and stable child care and social support”. Victims may also feel trapped because of the financial ties to their partners; some victims may be financially dependent on their partners that they are fearful of what their situation would look like after they leave the relationship. The pandemic adds another layer to that fear by forcing people to stay more time at home to alleviate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
As an accompaniment, the pandemic pushed shelters or hotels to reduce capacity or shut down altogether and restrict travel, which would leave victims with little to no options on where to go for safety. If victims want to report their abuse, they have a lack of a consistent process for reporting abuse, and people of color are more likely than white people to not directly consult with the legal system due to negative experiences with police officers. Another pandemic-related risk that victims of intimate partner violence faced and still face is when the only option for clinical evaluations are through video calls, which is not a valid choice for those with no internet access, unreliable internet, and/or are not able to speak freely because abusive partners eavesdrop. Abusive partners could even cleverly use misinformation about the pandemic to keep victims from getting help when necessary.
The awful truth is that domestic abuse victims do not seek help because abusers threaten them on a constant basis, and abusers use it to obtain control over them because they cannot control external factors brought on by the pandemic. Domestic abuse is not rare and “is the single largest cause of injury to women in the United States – over mugging, automobile accidents and rape, combined”. This issue does not have a one-size-fits-all solution and will take a long time to rectify, but the least we could do is lend a listening ear to the victims in order to make the world a safer place for not just them but those at a higher risk for domestic abuse.
Header Image Illustrated by Leana Santana