top of page

A New Covid-19 Crisis

Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide

Reports of domestic violence increased in March in many cities around the country as the coronavirus pandemic spread, according to law enforcement officials — raising concerns about families’ safety as they isolate at home.

Movement restrictions aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus may be making violence in homes more frequent, more severe, and more dangerous.

We are especially concerned that survivors will be unable to reach out for help due to their abusive partner monitoring their behaviors while they are in isolation.

One caller to a domestic violence hotline reported that her husband threatened to throw her out into the street if she coughed. Another reported they had been strangled by their partner, but feared to go to the hospital because of the threat of coronavirus. An immuno-compromised man from Pennsylvania called in after his emotionally abusive girlfriend began hiding cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer from him. A domestic violence victim is likely not able to pick up the phone and call somebody for help because their abusive partner is in the home or in the room with them. There are also financial concerns as the economy falters and unemployment numbers spike can also increase incidents of domestic violence. Studies show that as unemployment rises, so do levels of domestic violence. Financial uncertainty might stop women from leaving even outside times of economic crisis.

Add another public health crisis to the toll of the new coronavirus: Mounting data suggests that domestic abuse is acting like an opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic. There was every reason to believe that the restrictions imposed to keep the virus from spreading would have such an effect. Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together especially during the holiday season and now with the coronavirus.. Now, with families in lockdown worldwide, hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming. The United Nations called on Sunday for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.

Its lockdown began in early March. Soon after that, domestic violence reports began to rise, but there was nowhere for newly desperate women to go. Shelters could not take them because the risk of infection was too great. So the government said local authorities could requisition hotel rooms to serve as makeshift shelters where victims could quarantine safely.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s call volume has remained average during this period — between 1,800 and 2,000 per day. During the second half of March, 1,765 hotline callers reported that their abusive partner was leveraging COVID-19 to “further isolate, coerce, or increase fear in the relationship,” according to Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. And she worries those numbers don’t capture the full picture.

Supporting victims of domestic abuse is a priority for the home secretary, and she is fully aware of the distress and anxiety this period may cause to those suffering or at risk of domestic abuse,” the Home Office said in a statement. “We are working with the police, domestic abuse charities, helplines, and front-line workers to support and protect people,.”It also said victims could “disregard orders to stay at home if they need to seek immediate refuge.”

Eventually, the lockdowns will end. But as the confinement drags on, the danger seems likely to intensify. Studies show that abusers are more likely to murder their partners and others in the wake of personal crises, including lost jobs or major financial setbacks.

With Covid-19 ravaging the economy, such crises are set to become much more frequent. financial uncertainty might stop women from leaving even outside times of economic crisis..

When leaving isn’t an option, advocates are still committed to helping women navigate a changing world. “Obviously a safety plan looks very different if they’re forced to shelter in place with their abuser, so right now, we’re focusing a lot on emotional safety plans,” says Justice. “Then physical safety planning. What does it look like for you to create physical distance between yourself and the abuser in the space that you’re in? What does it look like for you to use virtual tools? What does it look like for you to reach out in a time of emergency?”

If this is an emergency CALL 911

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, advocates at the

National Domestic Violence Hotline are available 24/7 at

1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages.

bottom of page