Brad J. Bushman Ph.D.

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Domestic Violence

Staying Home During a Pandemic Isn’t Safe For Everyone

There has been a "horrifying surge" in domestic violence during global lockdowns

Posted Apr 10, 2020

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto get transported from Kansas to the Land of Oz in a tornado. But she wants to go home badly, because for her, “There’s no place like home.” Many others would agree with Dorothy because home is the safest place they can be. But for victims of domestic violence, home is the most dangerous place they can be.

Domestic violence is violence that occurs within the home between people who have a close relationship with each other. Most often, the victims are the physically weaker family members — women, children, and the elderly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lifetime, most often from an intimate partner.[1] According to the WHO, about 25% of children have been physically abused, and 20% of girls and 8% of boys have been sexually abused.[2] About 10% of elderly people (age 60 or over) have been abused,[3] most often by family members.[4] Elderly abuse is far less likely to be reported than other types of abuse; about only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities.[4] But anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of their gender, age, or level of physical strength.

Early reports suggest these shocking domestic violence statistics have surged during the COVID-19 global pandemic. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reported a sharp rise in domestic violence worldwide amid global coronavirus lockdowns.[5] He said, "Violence is not confined to the battlefield. For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes." Guterres reported that the number of women calling support services has doubled in some countries.

France has reported a 30% increase in domestic violence since the country went into lockdown.[6] The French government announced that it would pay for up to 20,000 nights of accommodation in hotels to help women escape abusive partners, and that it would set up 20 support centers at shopping centers around the country where women could seek help.[6]

Of course, lockdowns and quarantines are essential to flatten the curve for COVID-19, but they can also trap people with abusive partners, children with abusive parents, and the elderly with abusive family members. Financial concerns and stress due to COVID-19 can make the home environment even more dangerous for domestic violence victims. In addition, LGBTQ+ youth can feel rejected when they are trapped at home with family members who do not accept them.[7] 

Guterres plead "for peace at home — and in homes — around the world." I echo this plea. Now is the time to fight COVID-19, not family members. If you are a victim of domestic violence, or you know someone who is a victim, please report it. In the U.S., the national domestic hotline is: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

References

[1] World Health Organization (November 29, 2017). Violence against women. Retrieved fromhttps://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

[2] World Health Organization (September 30, 2016). Child maltreatment. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/child-maltreatment

[3] Lachs, M. S., & Pilemer, K. A. (2015). Elder abuse. New England Journal of Medicine, 373,1947-1956. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1404688

[4] National Council on Aging (n.d.) Elder abuse facts. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/

[5] Neuman, S. (April 6, 2020). Global lockdowns resulting in 'horrifying surge' in domestic violence, U.N. warns. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/06/827908402/global-lockdowns-resulting-in-horrifying-surge-in-domestic-violence-u-n-warns?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=nprblogscoronavirusliveupdates&fbclid=IwAR0SU_vwrf-bfBqKH6pdNzcQGIByQGBkFLmITBSQlFj4A7ixtaQpmUKtmpo

[6] Hume, T. (March 31, 2020). France is putting domestic abuse victims in hotels during coronavirus lockdown. Vice News. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3mj4g/france-is-putting-domestic-abuse-victims-in-hotels-during-coronavirus-lockdown?utm_campaign=sharebutton&fbclid=IwAR3P-b9hCvlyFmyhrBlLRqmegnAYIuY64YZfDt2hfxp_SZFmMgEUP7TCx2I

[7] Neighmond, P. (May 17, 2020). Home but not safe, some LGBTQ young people face rejection from families in lockdown. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/17/856090474/home-but-not-safe-some-lgbtq-young-people-face-rejection-from-families-in-lockdo

Author Notes: I would like to thank Becca Bushman for her feedback on this article.