Social-distancing, shelter-in-place, restricted travel increase family violence risk

No reprieve from abusive homes due to closed schools, libraries and churches

By Michael Hernandez 

A new study just released in April by Andrew M. Campbell in the Forensic Science International: Reports 2 (2020) 100089 shows that actions “to slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) such as social-distancing, shelter-in-place, restricted travel are likely to dramatically increase the risk for family violence around the globe.  In fact, many countries are already indicating a dramatic increase in reported cases of domestic violence.”

The author of the study released by Campbell Research and Consulting (Indianapolis, Indiana) defines family violence as “domestic violence, child abuse, and pet abuse.”   This increase is because victims find themselves “trapped in the home with a violent perpetrator during a time of severely limited contact with the outside world.”

Highlights of the study address:

Increasing risk of family violence during the Covid-19 pandemic

Family violence perpetrators who abuse alcohol may be even more likely to do so in the home, likely increasing risk for the entire household.

Communities considering the mass release of prisoners to reduce their risk of spreading Covid-19 in confinement must weigh the potentially significant risk for victims and households if domestic violence or other violent offenders are among those released.”

  • 20 percent of victims in domestic violence-related homicides are not the intimate partner but rather a neighbor, family member, friend, bystander, or first responder.
  • Children and pets reside in 60 percent or more of households where domestic violence is perpetrated and are also at risk of suffering significant physical and/or emotional harm. 
  • Researchers estimate children residing in a home where domestic violence occurs are at as much as 60 times the risk of child abuse or neglect compared to the general U.S. child population. 
  • Nearly 80 percent of victims residing in a home where domestic violence and pet abuse co-occur report daily fear they will be killed by the perpetrator.

Increasing overseas reports of domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic

  • In China, domestic violence is reported to have tripled during their shelter in-place mandate.
  • France has indicated a 30 percent increase in domestic violence reports.
  • Brazil estimates domestic violence reports have jumped 40–50 percent.
  • Italy has also indicated reports of domestic violence are on the rise.
  • In Spain, reports have surfaced of a horrific domestic violence-related homicide.

“The growing global trend of increasing reports of domestic violence cases is likely to continue throughout the pandemic and may only represent a ‘tip of the iceberg’ as many victims still find themselves trapped with the perpetrator and unable to report the abuse.

“In the United States, agencies from across the country are also reporting an increase in domestic violence. U.S. reports have surfaced of domestic violence perpetrators using Covid-19 as a weapon against their victims, forbidding handwashing in an attempt to increase the victim’s fear of contracting the virus and threatening to forbid medical treatment if the victim does contract the virus.”

Why decreasing reports of child abuse or neglect during the Covid-19 pandemic?

“The closures of schools and other critical community organizations has limited key community partners in their ability to detect and report abuse.”

  • In the United States, 67 percent of substantiated child abuse or neglect reports come from victim-serving professionals and 19 percent of these reports come from education personnel.

According to Andrew M. Campbell, “Agencies must work to develop community partnerships now with faith-based organizations, summer camps, youth clubs, libraries, public swimming facilities, and youth sports leagues to create potential opportunities to detect and report child abuse or neglect during spring or summer as opposed to waiting until children return to school in the fall.” 

Uniting human welfare and animal welfare efforts in response to Covid-19

  • 78 percent of calls to police reporting domestic violence come from the victim themselves, and in only 7 percent of those cases the suspect was on scene when officers arrived.
  • The majority of animal control calls come from neighbors.

In the State of Indiana:

  • While only 8 percent of calls reporting domestic violence to law enforcement come from a neighbor or bystander, 80 percent or more of animal control calls come from neighbors or bystanders.

Improving community collaboration:  A Call To Action

“The reality is, we were hardly “winning” the fight to end family violence even before this pandemic shook the world,” said Andrew M. Campbell.

Communities must ensure citizens are aware of the current increased risk of family violence at this time, encourage them to check on their neighbors, friends, and family (while maintaining adherence to any distancing regulations) and report ANY concerns they see or hear to the proper authorities.

“For as long as we allow family violence to remain in the shadows, it will do just that – remain. We must be vigilant. Risk of family violence is currently very high and will likely remain that way for the coming months. If you see or hear something concerning, please report it. The call you make may very well save a life.”

(Editor’s Note:  To see the entire journal article written by Andrew M. Campbell published in Forensic Science International Reports and available online on April 12, 2020 go to: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2665910720300384.)

 

Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].


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