As the political battles continue about reopening municipalities, counties, states and the nation in the face of the spread of COVID-19, other confrontations are on the rise closer to home.
According to the United Nations Population Fund in data made available in late April, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to contribute to “an estimated 2 million additional instances of intimate partner violence in 2020-2021” worldwide.
Plus, the UNPF report continues, COVID-19 stay-at-home directives and quarantine protocols are expected to increase levels of violence. Contributing factors, UNPF researchers note, include stay-at-home orders confining abusers and victims in the same residence, economic stress due to prolonged layoffs, job terminations and business closures and other household-related tensions.
UNPF researchers provide the following sobering data in the report titled “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on family planning and ending gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage”: “Projections show that if violence increases 20 percent during periods of lockdown, there would be an additional 15 million cases of intimate partner violence in 2020 for an average lockdown duration of three months, 31 million cases for an average lockdown of six months, 45 million for an average lockdown of nine months and 61 million if the average lockdown period were to be as long as one year.”
Kathryn Laughon, a professor in the University of Virginia School of Nursing who studies intimate partner violence, echoes these findings. According to Laughon, stay-at-home mandates in the United States mean violence and its cascade of ill effects — including physical abuse, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and even murder — are as deadly as COVID-19.
Closer to home, police coverage in The Press offers evidence.
For example, a recent incident told of a woman throwing a speaker at another person in a residence in Lower Macungie Township earlier this spring.
In another incident to which Pennsylvania State Police responded, a disagreement between two adult children escalated into a physical fight and their mother was hurt when she tried to intervene to stop the fight.
Additionally, state police have responded to altercations between a boyfriend and a girlfriend (April 22) and a husband and a wife (April 11).
“Victims are isolated with their abusers, with even fewer safe places to go. Work, school, community centers — those might have been sanctuaries under normal conditions, but now they don’t have those anymore,” Laughon explained.
The crisis has drawn the attention of such celebrated philanthropists as Rihanna and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who pledged a combined $4.2 million to help victims of domestic abuse in Los Angeles in April.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline remains open 24 hours a day every day. Help is available by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in 200 languages. The hotline also offers safe, private and secure chat lines.
Closer to home, the agencies of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence can be reached at 1-888-772-7227.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape also offers information on resources at pcar.org.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence also offers information through the website pcadv.org/find-help, including contact information for all domestic violence programs in the state.
Law enforcement can help as well.
Television viewers, news watchers and YouTube users might be familiar with recent stories about coded calls to 911 dispatchers in which a caller initially seemed to be ordering a pizza; however, the caller was asking for help.
Friends and family also may help victims of abuse particularly now, according Laughon.
“Right now, we have an excuse, a cover,” Laughon said. “People don’t have to text specifically about their concerns about violence, but simply to ask, ‘How are you doing?’ Let people know that while they may feel isolated and abandoned, they do have friends out there.”
Laughon recommends the following websites as resources for help with relationship violence: thehotline.org/help, myplanapp.org/home and futureswithoutviolence.org/get-updates-information-covid-19.
East Penn Press