COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders Detrimental to Domestic Violence Victims, Court Cases Postponed
LA VERNE, Calif.–Although stay-at-home orders were intended to keep people safe from the novel coronavirus, another threat lurks for those who are locked inside with their abuser.
Cases of domestic violence have increased worldwide due to mandatory stay-at-home orders.
Pat Bell, the executive director of the House of Ruth, a domestic violence agency in Los Angeles and San Bernardino County, shared what his agency has been experiencing.
The House of Ruth has seen an increase in hotline calls, but some are calling for other needs such as the homeless looking for shelter, Bell explained.
“The ones that are domestic violence specific, we’re trying to provide as many resources as we can to them,” Bell told Scriberr News. “But if you think about a person under the stay at home order act with their abusive partner in the same house, it’s challenging for them to call the hotline.
A victim stuck inside with their abuser might be having a difficult time getting help, especially with the quarantine orders in effect.
The organization provides emergency sheltering, crisis center, housing, counseling, and prevention awareness for victims in need.
“The problem is that people usually use their jobs and children’s school as a means of safety planning,” licensed social worker and psychotherapist, Zoe Oderberg, told Scriberr News.
“For example, if you’re stuck home with your abuser, one the abuse is going to be exacerbated by the stress of COVID-19 as well as the fact that you don’t have any privacy, or time to safely plan.”
On April 25, the Los Angeles Police Department released COMPSTAT Citywide Profile showing a 25 percent decrease in sexual assault crimes, which includes domestic violence from March to April.
The decrease in sexual assault reports does not mean domestic violence is no longer occurring, but rather it is becoming difficult for victims to find help.
“If they have more time at home, sometimes they get re-triggered from the stressors such as homeschooling or the virus,” marriage and family therapist Jane Shih Wang told Scriberr News.
“I would assume it is difficult to get away because you are having a hard time finding shelters and family members to live with right now,” she added.
Domestic violence can continue after the relationship has ended with individuals fighting for custody of children or financial compensations.
“Domestic violence doesn’t just mean when you’re in a relationship, it can continue even after you’ve left a relationship,” Oderberg said. “It’s the same person and same story. ‘I can’t get away from my abuser, either emotionally or financially. And I had people tell me, how am I going to file my tax return? Who’s going to get the stimulus check?’”
Wang expressed that her clients have been frustrated with the legal process, especially those who are trying to get a divorce. The courts are no longer open, so the process is indefinitely postponed.
Adults are not the only ones receiving abuse within their homes. Throughout March, half of the calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline were from minors.
“Of minors who discussed coronavirus-related concerns, 67% identified their perpetrator as a family member and 79% said they were living with that perpetrator,” according to RAINN.
Since the mandatory orders, the House of Ruth is taking precautionary steps such as testing temperature and following the guidelines by the Department of Health to ensure the health of their clients.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline includes safety planning and tips on how to stay safe while living with your abuser.
Some tips include:
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
- Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
“In China, domestic violence is reported to have tripled during their shelter-in-place mandate. Additionally, France has indicated a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, Brazil estimates domestic violence reports have jumped 40–50 %, and Italy has also indicated reports of domestic violence are on the rise,” according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in April.
Since the stay-at-home orders began across the United States, each state has witnessed different outcomes of domestic violence reports, with hotline calls fluctuating.
Every 73 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
On April 24, New York saw an uptick in domestic violence reports.
“Domestic violence reports overall are up 30 percent in April compared to last year, and incident calls to the state have increased 15 percent in March compared to last year,” according to New York Gov. Cuomo press release.
Gov. Cuomo has decided to make changes to the state’s domestic violence hotline, which will now include a text program and additional online services.
Victims can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE.
“I get that my clients are judged by people who don’t understand how domestic violence works. And don’t judge someone situation that you’re not aware of,” Oderberg said.
“It does not discriminate race, gender, age, ethnicity, wealth. You can be rich, you can be poor, it does not matter. Domestic violence does not discriminate.”
Many are preparing for an increase in victims trying to get into shelters or seek aid after the health orders have been lifted.
“We are really getting ready and anticipating a spike in our service requests after the order lifts,” Bell said. “So when people are able to get out and maybe someone returns back to work or someone goes out to the grocery store, just to have that alone time to be able to call a hotline, that’s when we expect people to really be reaching out for help.”
The House of Ruth 24 hour hotline number 1-877-988-5559.