The COVID-19 pandemic kept children from school, employees at home, and towns closed as nations struggled to minimize the illness and deaths. Sadly, the isolation and stress caused by the efforts to keep people safe also took their toll on families. Increases in domestic violence incidents rose worldwide and became a serious concern for many people as they felt trapped with their abusers. Those hoping to end the violence continue to look for how and why the increase occurred.
Increase in Substance Abuse
Stress, boredom, and a lack of accountability from the outside world contributed to a rise in drug and alcohol use. People that already struggled from addiction were less able to find help or to find a reason to abstain. Others overused substances to cover the fear or frustration caused by the pandemic. The result in many homes was an increase in domestic violence. Not every case of domestic abuse included substance use, but studies have repeatedly shown a link between the incidents.
Familiarity Heightened Existing Problems
Some families enjoyed the days and weeks spent together and made the most of the forced family time. In households where tension already existed, the closeness only worsened some relationships. Unable to escape each other, some couples and parents behaved in ways they may not have otherwise.
Outside Witnesses not Present
Habitual abusers hide their behavior to avoid legal charges. Abused partners and children were once able to stay safer because of the potential for witnesses like visitors to the home, coworkers, or teachers and other students. The pandemic forced people to be apart. The separation made abuse simpler to hide and may have lowered the inhibitions of some abusers.
Safe Havens were Closed
Social distancing and the threat of passing an illness to a loved one made it impossible for people to escape at a relative’s home. Many shelters for domestic violence victims closed. Some places closed due to supply shortages, and others accepted a percentage of their usual residency due to distancing requirements. Some people struggled to find transportation away from their abusers as taxi services disappeared.
No excuse can make right any domestic abuse of a romantic partner, parent, or child. Yes, the pandemic exacerbated domestic abuse but help still exists. Anyone who feels at risk has options. National hotlines can help people find local resources, and police departments still respond to calls for help.