Many families have enjoyed their uninterrupted time together in quarantine. However, there is a growing concern that the stress of the times mixed with tenuous relationships and tight quarters could lead to an uptick in domestic violence in homes not safe for spouses or children. This is based on data in France (which has seen a 30% jump in reports of domestic violence) and other countries around the world as well as reports from New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.
This has led the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to speak out regarding the risk during the quarantine. Moreover, pop star Rihanna and Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey have each donated millions of dollars to raise awareness and support programs that serve victims of domestic violence.
Who is most at risk?
The circumstances of each incident are different, but groups disproportionately at risk include:
- Couples with a history of violence
- Households with lower incomes or unemployment
- People of color
- Members of the LGBTQ community
Victims do have options
The victims may feel as if they are trapped with a monster, and may need to ask for help regardless of the quarantine. Calling 911 is an important first step – law enforcement will answer the call – or reaching out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline via phone or live chat.
The next step may be to work with an attorney to obtain a protection order (also known as a restraining order) against the abuser. Once the victim is removed from the danger, the lawyer can help determine the best course of action, weighing whether there is a likelihood that imminent danger will continue if the aggressor is unrestrained.
Conversely, an attorney can also protect the parental rights of those wrongly accused of abuse, perhaps by someone who lost perspective due to the stressful circumstances. In cases like these, the orders may be abused and cause damage to relationships between partners and between parents and their children.
These are stressful times for everyone
We are all going to get through this together using patience and understanding. But the lines must be drawn, and physical and emotional violence against others is unacceptable. Victims may have to seek shelter somewhere else with the help of authorities and an attorney. It may then also be necessary to discuss the likelihood of divorce, custody of the children and other important family law issues.