- Domestic violence cases across the US and the globe are on the rise as the coronavirus pandemic forces abusers and their victims to shelter in place together.
- While many hotlines and police departments have experienced an increase in calls, some have seen a decrease.
- However, some activists and experts say, the true scope of the violence will be seen after shelter-in-place measures are lifted and victims are able to safely make those calls.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hotlines across the world are receiving a growing number of domestic abuse calls as countries have put in place lockdowns and stay at home orders, The New York Times reported.
According to CNN, several US cities have already reported increases in domestic violence cases and calls to local hotlines.
CNN reported that nine of the 20 largest metropolitan police departments reported “double-digit percentage jumps” in domestic violence 911 calls or cases in March compared to last year or the January or February 2020.
Boston, Massachusetts had a 22% increase and Seattle, Washington had 21% in domestic assault and battery reports in March compared to the same month last year. In Portland, Oregon domestic violence arrests jumped by 27% between March 12 and 23 of this year compared to the same time in 2019, according to CNN.
Additionally, some shelters are already full after implementing social distancing measures.
Last week, a man killed his wife and then shot himself over fears that they might have the coronavirus, Business Insider previously reported. They both tested negative.
Ray-Jones told CNN, that her group has gotten calls from “survivors who say the pandemic is making their situation worse.”
One woman called saying her partner tried to strangle her but she didn’t want to go to a hospital because she was scared she would catch the coronavirus. Another woman said her partner started “slowly” loading his gun when she was getting ready for work and told her she couldn’t go outside. Yet another said her partner made her scrub her hands till they were raw.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations tweeted “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”
In another incident, another man in Pennsylvania shot his girlfriend and then killed himself after losing his job to coronavirus. The girlfriend survived, according to CNN.
“Domestic violence is rooted in power and control, and all of us are feeling a loss of power and control right now,” Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline told CNN.
Jones added: “We’re really bracing for a spike post-COVID-19. That’s when law enforcement and advocates and courts are going to hear the really, really scary stuff going on behind closed doors.”
Marianne Hester, a Bristol University sociologist told The Times domestic violence increases when families spend more time together like during the holidays and the shelter in place orders have that same effect.
Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.
Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world.
I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/PjDUTrMb9v
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 6, 2020
During the lockdown in China, a woman told The Times that her husband beat her with a high chair after an argument. The woman who asked to only be referred to by her first name Lele, told The Times, that her husband had been abusive during their six-year relationship but the pandemic was making matters worse.
“During the epidemic, we were unable to go outside, and our conflicts just grew bigger and bigger and more and more frequent. Everything was exposed,” she told The Times.
She accused him of beating her while she was holding their 11-month-old child until one of her legs gave out.
“Nearly every inch of her lower legs was covered in bruises, a huge hematoma blooming on her left calf,” The Times wrote.
In the United Kingdom, CNN reports that calls to the country’s national domestic abuse helpline increased by 25 % during the virus outbreak. BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire even wrote the number on her hand to remember during her broadcast.
Huge respect to @vicderbyshire, the number on her hand is for a domestic abuse helpline.
Being in lockdown is bad enough, now imagine doing it with someone who terrifies you.
For anyone who needs it – National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808-2000-247 pic.twitter.com/YFe0iqurpm
— Tommy Corbyn (@TommyCorbyn) April 6, 2020
Additionally, Refuge, the country’s biggest domestic abuse charity said calls to its helpline also increased by 25% and traffic to its website increased by 150%, according to CNN.
Spain’s emergency number for domestic violence saw an 18% increase in calls in their first two weeks of lockdown than in the same period the month before, The Times reported.
In France, the police reported a 30% increase in domestic violence across the country, last week.
While the numbers vary across the world and even across the US, with some places like New York City reporting drops in domestic abuse calls. Some experts say the impact will show after social-distancing measures are eased, CNN reported.
“They can’t reach out safely, because their perpetrator is sitting right next to them,” Ray-Jones told CNN.