Domestic violence rates are increasing in developing and developed countries alike during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of domestic violence incidents in the US increased by 8.1% after lockdown orders, according to analysis released by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ) on Feb. 24.
The analysis is based on a review of 18 US and international studies that compared domestic violence incidents before and after lockdown orders rolled out in March 2020, according to CNN.
Early reports on domestic violence only relied on police reports, but NCCCJ’s analysis drew data from police call logs, domestic violence crime reports, emergency hotline registries, and health records. Every form of data showed overwhelming evidence of an increase in domestic violence.
"Our analysis confirms the initial fears we had at the outset of the pandemic," Alex Piquero, chair of the University of Miami department of sociology and lead author of the analysis, told CNN.
Domestic violence often goes underreported due to shame and fear and is not always taken seriously by law enforcement. Lockdowns have also trapped more survivors with their abusers and made it more difficult to report incidents or have others intervene, creating what the United Nations is referring to as the “shadow pandemic” of violence against women.
In a new #NCCCJ report, @DrAlexPiquero says #COVID-19 stay-at-home orders exacerbated factors associated with domestic violence, such as increased unemployment, childcare stresses, & poor coping strategies — including increased alcohol & substance use. https://t.co/Su00MGnchd— Council on Criminal Justice (@CouncilonCJ) February 26, 2021
"In my mind, I think that 8% is a floor and not a ceiling," Piquero said. "I think the problem is actually worse than we actually know right now."
The authors of the report say that while there is significant evidence to link the uptick in domestic violence to lockdowns and increased isolation, they still can’t pinpoint exactly why domestic violence rates are up.
Economic issues such as male unemployment, financial insecurity, and stress from child care and homeschooling have exacerbated domestic violence risk factors, according to NCCCJ. Unhealthy coping strategies, including the increased use of alcohol and other substances, are also thought to have raised the risk of abuse.
“The pandemic has thrown many of the most vulnerable people in our society into especially challenging circumstances, so these findings should not surprise us,” Thomas Abt, director of the NCCCJ, said in a press release.
NCCCJ was launched in July 2020 by the Council on Criminal Justice think tank and has closely researched the link between the pandemic and an increase in violent crime and higher infection and mortality rates among prison inmates. The commission noticed a similar trend in the rise in violent crime and homicides and the rise in domestic violence, and cities across the country have seen increases in both areas.
Most countries around the world have failed to provide women with the social services and support they need to stay safe and recover from the pandemic. NCCCJ is urging policymakers and researchers to prioritize understanding the impacts of the pandemics and providing additional resources for domestic violence prevention and services for survivors.