WRITTEN BY MAHOGANY WILSON, LCSW, RYT | PUBLISHED APRIL 15, 2020
2020 has been quite a year thus far and it’s only April. Due to the spread of the Coronavirus we are currently in a global pandemic. And because of this many cities and states have put “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders into effect, shutting down schools, and many businesses have had to temporarily close their doors. These decisions, while made for the greater good of the nation, have affected us all differently and have many unintended consequences, including the rise in domestic violence reports.
According to CNN, San Antonio Texas has reported “double-digit percent increases in domestic violence-related calls, comparing March to 2019 or earlier months in 2020”. A Houston news publication has also reported that the court system in Montgomery County identified a 35% increase in cases filed compared to this same time last year. Even if the domestic violence cases are not increasing in some areas, the nature of the reports are concerning. Including an increase in cases where violence has not previously been known or reported. There is also a reported increase in child abuse cases as well. Another concern is that once the stay at home orders are released, the domestic violence cases will continue to increase due to victims finally having the opportunity to contact authorities. Currently it may be difficult for victims to reach out because their abusers are in such close proximity and they likely do not have the alone time they did prior to the pandemic. Domestic violence trends also have a history of spiking after a crisis. For example, there was a reported increase in domestic violence reports after Hurricane Harvey. This was likely due to the stress of dealing with the aftermath of the crisis.
You may be wondering what is causing these trends in domestic violence. The very simple answer is stress and fear. Although as you will see through the remainder of this post, there is nothing really simple about our emotions. We are complex creatures and times like these cause us to face ourselves in ways that many are not prepared for
Many businesses have had to resort to cutting hours or even laying off employees in order to remain in business during or after the pandemic. Many households are managing paycheck to paycheck and this kind of disruption in income can be devastating to some. A survey conducted last year found that 48% of Americans suffer from financial stress. A correlation between increased mental health concerns and financial stress was also noted.
In addition to financial stress families are spending more time in the home together due to the shelter in place orders. Kids are typically able to spend time at school, sporting events, or with extended family or friends, allowing parents to get a much-needed break. Without these opportunities to catch their breath parents may find themselves overwhelmed with responsibility or even triggered by their kids’ behavior or restlessness.
Individuals also do not have access to the same outlets that were available before. If people are accustomed to having a few nights out at the bar a week, guys nights out or even being able to go to the gym, they may struggle to find alternative outlets. Everyone copes with difficulties and stress, even avoidance is coping. However, we all cope in different ways. Individuals may now find themselves coping with whatever is available, which may be very limited and may include an increase in alcohol and drug use. Which we know can be attributed to an increase in violent behaviors. As a result, we are left with people who are stressed and now forced to be at home every day, with little or no outlets that are typically available.
People are also scared. People are afraid of what the future may hold. We went from living relatively normal lives to being on “lockdown” and we did not have a say so in any of the decisions that have been made that are now affecting us. Fear and control are intricately connected. When you lose control in one area of your life you naturally tend to hyper focus on another area of your life that seems easier to control. Abusers are known to be controlling and this loss of control over their daily lives may cause them to focus on controlling what is happening in their home, maybe even more than usual. Add all of these things together and you have created the perfect storm. There is no wonder why domestic violence and child abuse cases are increasing. Even parents and partners that are not typically abusive may now find themselves becoming verbally and physically abusive, because of these factors.
One thing that we can all do is attempt to manage our stress in a healthy way. You may not be at the point of abusing your partner or kids. But let’s not forget that emotional and verbal abuse can be just as detrimental as physical abuse. You may also find that when you are stressed you are more likely to lash out at those closest to you. If you were on the edge before, this type of stress might take you over the edge. Use this time to find something new and be creative with self-care. Check out the previous blog post for some additional self-care tips.
If you are not directly affected by domestic violence or child abuse, you may be asking, what can I do? If you see something, say something. If you hear suspicious noises coming from a neighbor or happen to witness abuse DO NOT intervene yourself, but instead call the police or report to the appropriate authority. If you work in healthcare, social services, therapy or any other field where you are still working and are regularly coming into contact with others, look for signs of abuse and be sure to utilize screening questions. While physical contact is limited, we still have each other. We can still show compassion and care for our fellow human beings. Do your part, stay safe, do not intervene, but please do not turn a blind eye. And if you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or at thehotline.org. Child abuse can also be reported online at txabusehotline.org or 1-800-252-5400. Do not use these hotlines if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
Tolan, C. (2020,4/6). Some Cities See Jumps in Domestic Violence During the Pandemic. Click 2 Houston https://www.click2houston.com/news/national/2020/04/06/some-cities-see-jumps-in-domestic-violence-during-the-pandemic/
PRNewshire (2019, 6/11) New Survey Reveals America’s Most Financially Stressed Cities and States. Yahoo Finance. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/survey-reveals-americas-most-financially-130000008.html
Mahogany Wilson is a licensed therapist and yoga instructor. For more information about her, please follow her Instagram @brownyogitherapist and check out her yoga videos on our YouTube channel. Photos of Mahogany taken by Candace Wilson.