Increase in Family Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 Pandemic and Family Violence

Countries across the globe are battling COVID-19 by employing measures that include school closures, national quarantines, online work, lockdown, and border closures to minimize the transmission speed. Almost every region in the world has experienced some kind of restriction, with measures differing from one area to another. For instance, United States enacted regional lockdowns, while countries such as Italy enacted indefinite total lockdown. The situation worsened as the number of infected people increased worldwide. Other than the increase in the rate of infection, COVID-19 has impacted societies, relationships, and families in unpredictable and unimaginable ways resulting in socioeconomic crisis. COVID-19 is subjecting societies to pressure that goes past social care systems, political leadership, international solidarity, and healthcare infrastructure. One such weighty impact that is currently being experienced at an alarming rate is the effects of increasing cases of domestic or family violence during the pandemic (Sharma and Borah 2).

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Domestic and family violence is one of the common social problems in our society. Domestic and family health violence are approximated to impact 10 million individuals in the United States annually. It is a public health issue and nearly all healthcare professionals will treat or evaluate a family or domestic violence patient at some point. Family and domestic violence define a wide range of abuse that includes psychological, economic, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse toward elders, adults, and children (Huecker et al. 1).

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Family violence has been a serious social problem in our society for a long time. However, the situation is said to have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The rates of violence against women are currently on the rise and are a major concern during the COVID-19 pandemic globally. According to Sharma and Borah (2), a recent article from The Guardian documents a surge in domestic violence and stresses on a pattern that can be observed worldwide. According to the report, Brazil experience a rise in domestic violence incidences by 40-50% during the pandemic. The UK experienced an increase in calls associated with domestic violence cases by 25% in a week after lockdown and strict social distancing measures were executed (Sharma and Borah 2).

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In the USA, there was a spike in domestic violence cases during the Pandemic in various states. Portland, for instance, experiences a spike in cases of arrest associated with domestic violence by 22%, there was a 27% increase in cases of domestic violence calls in Jefferson Country Alabama in March 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. New York City also experienced an increase in domestic violence helpline calls by 10% in March 2020 compared to the same time in 2019 (Sharma and Borah 2). Cyprus and Spain experience a spike in helplines call by 20-30% in the first few days of lockdown and also in a week after the report of the first case of COVID-19 in the countries. France also recorded an increase in domestic violence by 30% since March 2020, with Paris alone recording a 36% increase in domestic violence (Nittari et al. 5).

A study by the Center for Global Development on violence against children and women during COVID-19 revealed a general increase in children and women violence across the globe. Jordan documented quadrupling of self-reported violence against women. Also, China demonstrated a 278% increase in police calls for domestic violence during the pandemic. The study also recorded an increase in domestic violence in Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, Germany, Chile, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Hubei, Iran, Isfahan, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Malaysia among others (Bourgault et al. 2-3).

Why did Family Violence Increase During the Covid-19 Pandemic?

The increase of family violence during the pandemic is highly blamed on policies and regulations employed by most countries to control the spread of the disease. Most countries employed COVID-19 containment measures that included lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing have resulted in social isolation, movement restriction, and economic insecurity. This increased domestic violence risk factors. Victims were quarantined with abusive partners, reducing or eliminating the safe window they used to have before the pandemic. Lockdown has offered greater freedom to abusers. It has made it easier for an abuser to enact control tactics by reducing the victim’s access to the internet, phones, and other people.

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Moreover, victims were disconnected from their normal support systems such as community, friends, and family, with the consequent increase in difficulties in seeking help. Moreover, it has been postulated that isolation paired with economic psychological stressors such as limited social support, unemployment, limited resources, and reduced income, that accompany the pandemic and resulting in a possible increase in negative coping strategies such as binge drinking, can integrate to create a perfect storm to ignite violent behaviors in the family (Mittal and Singh 4). 

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Despite the recorded increase in domestic violence during a pandemic, some studies have identified a realized increase in unreported gender-based violence cases during the pandemic. According to Mittal and Singh (4), most of the employed policies put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic made it hard for some of the victims to report cases of family violence. Several gender-based violent shelters and NGOs experienced a decline in helpline number calls during the pandemic. This includes Jagori, a Delhi-based NGO that experience a 50% drop in helpline calls. A similar situation was experienced in Norwegian shelters for domestic violence victims. This was blamed on abusers’ freedom to control victims, and lack of collaboration among the involved agents in addressing family violence, mostly due to lockdown and other measures (Bergman et al. 1).

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To address the issue of increasing family violence during the pandemic, the involved agencies should focus on ignored measures during a pandemic. The agents should find a way to expand community partnerships and collaboration and creating awareness. They should also find better reporting methods that are unlikely to alert the abuser. For instance, rather than using phone calls, they can consider using SMS, WhatsApp chats, emails, Tweets, or Facebook chats. The involved authority should also facilitate the provision of counseling, and other therapeutic intervention using telephones or the internets, especially among individuals going through psychological problems or experiencing other stressors that can initiate negative coping techniques. Addressing psychological issues before they escalate would help in reducing the increase in violence.

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The research has highly enlightened me on increase in the cases of family violence during the pandemic. Before the research, I expected that most people living with abusive partners were likely to experience an increase in abuse frequency, due to lockdown and lack of safe space. However, the rate of increase in reported domestic violence cases made me realize that the pandemic created a new set of abusers, as a result of economic and social stressors. This means there have been a huge number of couples experiencing abuse for the first time. This shows the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis on people’s lives, especially due to its effect on people’s economic and social wellbeing.

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