Shortly after cities across the nation and world began their quarantines and shutdowns in early 2020 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the reports began coming in about concerns about increased domestic violence during the lockdowns particularly because the abused were being “locked in” with their abusers with fewer resources for escape. Not long after, the concerns were confirmed: law enforcement agencies and domestic violence shelters across the board reported significant spikes in the rates of domestic battery. Even so, the general expectation was that as lockdowns eased and the economy reopened, the rates of domestic violence would also drop accordingly.
But recent disturbing data shows this may not be the case. Numerous studies have indicated that domestic violence has continued to increase well into 2021, long after the quarantines were lifted. The Emergency Journal of Medicine estimates that worldwide, domestic violence incidents increased a whopping 25-33 percent throughout 2020–and not necessarily in direct relation to lockdowns. And with the recent surge of the Omicron variant sparking concerns about further shutdowns and quarantines, experts fear we aren’t at the end of this spike just yet.
This information tells us that there’s more fueling this recent increase than just pandemic lockdowns. A deeper dive into the situation shows that there actually may be several ongoing factors contributing to the problem. Let’s examine some of these issues more closely.
Ongoing Pandemic Woes
As most of the world now grapples with the largest rates of positivity in COVID cases since the pandemic began thanks to the Omicron variant, it’s quite apparent this health crisis is far from over, even among the vaccinated and boosted. Even though fewer lockdowns are occurring and the majority of government officials are pledging to keep economies open, the ongoing incidents of illness and the accompanying fear are themselves acting as a major stressor. While victims aren’t necessarily trapped with abusers, the health crisis itself may be fueling more anxiety in the home, causing shorter emotional fuses and making it more likely for tempers to flare.
The fact that “it could happen to anyone” has spurred levels of uncertainty and anxiety that most have not experienced in their lifetime. Additionally, with more and more people now experiencing the tragic loss of a loved one due to COVID, the resulting grief is an additional stressor. Those who are more susceptible to displays of violence may be dealing with a plethora of emotions that they are not equipped to deal with in a constructive way.
Economy Still Weakening
There has always been a strong correlation between financial hardship and domestic violence. The economy was plunged into an almost instant recession in the wake of the initial shutdowns. In the early days of the pandemic, many people were thrown out of work and struggling to make ends meet. But even with the economy reopening and more job opportunities opening up, the ongoing repercussions are causing stress. Although some headlines indicate an improving economy, the U.S.’s recovery has been anything but smooth. Economists are warning that while the unemployment rate is dropping, more people are either underemployed or out of work entirely—and more people struggling with food and housing insecurity makes for a potentially explosive situation. Add to that the dramatic spike in inflation in recent months driven by supply chain woes, and you have a veritable tinder box for tempers to flare—and possibly for violence to occur.
Before the pandemic even began, the political landscape was in a state of upheaval. The rise of COVID seemed only to provide fuel for the fire. Between the increasing divide between conservative and liberal ideologies, the unnecessary politicization of vaccinations, masks, and other mitigating measures, the stoking of racial unrest, and more…many people have become anxious about what’s going on in their government. With that anxiety often comes anger, frustration, and other negative emotions, which can lead to aggressive behavior.
Researchers have noted an uptick in violent-related crimes during times of high national uncertainty or when there are events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks where people are feeling especially vulnerable. People often don’t feel safe within their own homes, nor do they feel protected by law enforcement officials who may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases coming across their desks. Most major cities have observed spikes in murder cases and other violent crimes over the past couple of years—and the rates of violence within the home seem to parallel those increases.
What Does the Future Hold?
Unfortunately, since all the factors contributing to the rise in domestic violence show no immediate signs of resolution, we can reasonably expect that we will continue to see more domestic violence cases for the near future. For now, the best ways to combat domestic violence as a community are through early detection and prevention mechanisms such as education, awareness campaigns, and support groups. On an individual level, honesty and self-awareness are key. If you are feeling the negative pressures of the world we live in and either have a history of violence or feel prone to it, the best thing you can do is step back from volatile situations whenever possible and consider some form of self-help or therapy to begin addressing the root issues.
If you are currently facing charges of domestic violence and/or protective orders in Los Angeles, we can provide compassionate legal representation to help you navigate a way forward. Call our offices for a free consultation.