The 2020s have been a time of both positive and negative change for domestic violence victims in the United States. On the one hand, we’ve witnessed many cases that raised awareness of DV and other forms of abuse–and on the other, the increased rates of domestic violence during the pandemic revealed how much work is left to be done. We’ve gained a greater understanding of the different forms domestic violence can take–how it’s not just physical contact, but can also include things like criminal threats, harassing phone calls, and more.
We started this discussion by looking at specific reported instances of domestic violence. Now, let’s take a broader view, looking at news items that address changing attitudes and what may be done to curb domestic violence in America.
New Poll Confirms Increased DV During Pandemic–But Increasing Awareness, as Well
A recent poll of Californians by the Blue Shield of California Foundation confirmed that, as in other places across the globe, rates of domestic violence spiked during the lockdowns and quarantines of the COVID pandemic, and even continued after lockdowns subsided. The causes of the increased violence were varied, including increased stress, substance abuse, and the fact that victims were inadvertently cut off from services and effectively trapped with their abusers.
But data from the poll also revealed that California’s focus on curbing domestic violence might also be improving awareness of the problem among the public. Some of the more interesting revelations include the following:
- Ninety percent feel that domestic violence is a serious problem. Of these, at least two-thirds consider domestic violence to be a public issue, not just a private one.
- Most Californians polled acknowledge that domestic violence extends past physical and sexual violence. They admit DV includes mental/emotional abuse, financial control, social media bullying, and even reproductive control.
- Eighty percent believe we should consider alternatives to jail for domestic violence perpetrators. They believe we should look at things like counseling, supervision by a social worker, or restitution to the victims. This is a significant shift from the previous decade’s focus on punitive measures–and perhaps an indication that the public realizes stricter punishments are not working because they actually do little to prevent domestic violence.
- More than 90 percent support providing additional services to domestic violence survivors. Examples of additional services include providing childcare, food, housing, transportation assistance, paid leave, and cash assistance.
The results of this poll reveal an encouraging shift in public awareness among Californians—a public that is much more aware of the different forms domestic violence can take and more open to creative ways to address the causes of it. These changing attitudes may open doors for greater public understanding and support for victims, as well as offering more rehabilitative help for the perpetrators.
House Passes Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act
On March 17, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by a vote of 244-172. The original VAWA, signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, has been reauthorized and modified several times over the years. The current bill, officially known as HR-1620 – Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021, extends current protections and services for domestic violence victims through fiscal year 2026 with a few modifications. It also extends certain services and closes some gaps and loopholes, most notably some potentially dangerous loopholes in firearms laws. The bill also creates new initiatives and establishes additional safeguards to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking by maintaining their housing and financial stability.
HR-1620 was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and co-sponsored by 184 Democrats and two Republicans. It passed the House in March 2021 by a bipartisan vote, but as of now, it has only received a single hearing in the Senate (October 5, 2021). Primary opposition appears to be from Republicans who reject the bill’s strengthened gun control. The bill has strong support from the White House, and President Biden is expected to sign it if it passes both houses.
Many bills naturally take time to get through both houses of Congress, but considering the poll results in the previous news piece we discussed, the slow movement of the bill through the Senate may suggest federal lawmakers do not have their finger on the pulse of the average American regarding the importance of providing stronger domestic violence protections–this, despite the fact that the bill has bipartisan support. Currently, analysis of the data by AI-driven Skopos Labs in New York suggests the bill has only a 2-percent probability of becoming law in its current form. Some advocacy groups like the NNEDV even believe HR-1620 doesn’t go far enough in its protections, particularly of immigrant survivors of domestic violence.
Overall, the domestic violence stories of the 2020s so far demonstrate a mixed bag—signs of progress coupled with numerous indications that much work needs to be done. However, among those who are more aware of the problem, there’s an increasing consensus that stricter penalties for domestic violence aren’t enough—that there needs to be more support for both victims and the accused to address the root causes of domestic violence in order to bring it under control.
If you’ve been recently accused of domestic violence in Los Angeles or have been served with protective orders, we are available to help you deal with the legal issues you’re facing. Call our offices today for a free consultation.