“The guarantee of safety in a battering relationship can never be based upon a promise from the perpetrator, no matter how heartfelt. Rather, it must be based upon the self-protective capability of the victim. Until the victim has developed a detailed and realistic contingency plan and has demonstrated her ability to carry it out, she remains in danger of repeated abuse.” – Judith Lewis Herman
This lengthy quotation by Judith Lewis Herman describes the quintessential nature of a relationship between an abuser and the abused in terms of safety. In other words, the only way the victim will remain safe is to demonstrate that she can live on her own outside of the abuser’s protection.
The United Nations’ organization, UN Women, states that at least 35% of all women across the globe have experienced some form of domestic violence or abuse from an intimate partner. However, they also note that “some national studies show that up to 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.” And, studies show that women who have been abused report higher rates of depression compared to women who have not been abused.
These are shocking statistics, and, unfortunately, the current COVID-19 global pandemic is adding to the levels of domestic violence against women and children. SAMHSA.gov describes the fact that, because families are required to remain at home to protect themselves and their communities from the virus, there is a realistic expectation that these numbers will dramatically rise.
What is COVID-19?
Before we consider some of the reasons, as described by the Toledo domestic abuse attorney, for the increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s look at a definition of the novel coronavirus.
The World Health Organization defines the coronavirus, COVID-19, as “the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.” The novel coronavirus belongs to a family of viruses that are known to cause illness in both animals and humans. And, in most cases, the virus originates in an animal like a bat and jumps to a human host.
Once it has attached itself to the human host, it mutates so that it is transmissible from person-to-person. Rarely, the virus jumps back to an animal host, although traces of COVID-19 have been found on domestic animals like dogs and cats. It is believed that this virus can remain alive on the domestic animals’ coats.
This virus is extremely virulent and spreads rapidly via droplet infection from person-to-person. Scientists and medical professionals know very little about the virus’s behavior except that one of the only ways to control its spread is social distancing or social isolation. Hence, the reason for the lockdown orders by the world’s governments.
Reasons for the increase in domestic violence cases
Apart from the fact that families are forced to stay at home without the ability to leave home for long periods of time highlighted at the beginning of the article, there are several other fundamental reasons attributed to the increase in domestic abuse. Some of these reasons include:
Alcohol and nicotine withdrawal symptoms
Many countries have banned the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes because both are linked to social activities. Smoking damages the smokers’ lungs; thereby, increasing the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms leading to death. And, alcohol reduces a drinker’s immunity, which also increases the risk of contracting the virus.
Many people have been sent home without pay or furloughed indefinitely because their employers can no longer pay their wages. This leads to an increase in frustration and can spiral out of control and end up in domestic violence.
Increase in conflicts between partners
There are definite psychological ramifications of being forced to stay indoors for long periods of time. The trauma caused by this fact can lead to an increase in the number and intensity of fights between partners. And, once again, it can spiral out of control leading to domestic violence and abuse.