It’s been a full year since COVID-19 closed down the state of North Carolina and the entire world. Beginning in March of 2020, many countries began ordering “lockdowns” for citizens to stem the spread of the coronavirus to more of the population. Masks became commonplace, many office-based employees began working from home.
Children began online schooling, and many parents became home-schoolers as well. Retail employees in grocery and discount stores became “essential workers” while everyone else stayed home.
People everywhere have adapted to the new lifestyle, with many making permanent changes. Unfortunately, one less positive outcome of the pandemic isolation has been the increase of domestic violence resulting from the nationwide lockdowns.
Lockdown With An Abusive Partner
Another name for domestic violence is “intimate partner violence,” or IPV. The CDC reports:
- About one in four women and one in ten men have experienced domestic violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported at least one impact of the violence, i.e., concern for personal safety
- Over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime
The pandemic lockdowns have exacerbated domestic violence. Individuals who were planning to leave their abusive domestic partner may have seen their plans thwarted when the shelter-in-place plans were implemented, trapping them with their abuser. Teachers, social workers, childcare professionals, and others who would otherwise have more frequent contact with victims are not in touch to be able to help.
Social distancing requirements meant that abused partners no longer had options in friends or relatives ready to help. The risk of COVID-19, and subsequent quarantine, took away resources such as shelters that might have been available before. Closures of courts also mean that protection orders were more difficult or even impossible to acquire.
Violence can take the forms of:
Many of these types of relationships also involve financial entanglement, and victims may not be able to access their own paycheck in order to leave.
One of the most prevalent indicators of increased domestic violence during the pandemic has been the uptick in Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Even outside of the pandemic, TBI in women is about one in four. That rate has increased along with the rise in domestic violence cases.
Medical facilities are frequently safe spaces for victims to be able to report abuse and seek help. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also taken away that option. Surgeries and other appointments were canceled in the wake of the pandemic. Non-emergency medical visits have taken the form of telemedicine, either a phone call or video call with patients to determine a diagnosis. This means that abusers may be able to listen in to conversations, rendering the patient unable to disclose any indication of abuse.
American Family Physician recently published guidelines for healthcare providers for helping identify and assist victims of domestic violence.
North Carolina’s Response
In March of 2020, police departments in the US saw as much as a 27% increase in domestic violence calls, although the number of calls in Raleigh stayed about the same as the previous year. However, shelters such as Interact have seen a weekly increase in calls as much as 30% to 50%.
North Carolina Health News also reported an uptick in domestic violence cases statewide.
The COVID-19 Remote Hearing Resource For Domestic Violence Matters, published in January of 2021 by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts sets out guidelines for courts to handle these particularly difficult cases. Additional information is available on the North Carolina Judicial Branch website.
Despite the lockdown, Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order does allow domestic violence victims the opportunity to leave home and seek safety and shelter. Victims may not realize that they can leave, no matter what their abuser tells them. Help is also available through:
- North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Interact of Wake County
- Compass Center For Women & Families (Chapel Hill)
- Durham Crisis Response Center: 24/7 hotline at 919-403-6562 (English), 919-519-3735 (Spanish)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 24/7 at 800-799-SAFE (7233); or online chat at org/what-is-live-chat
The North Carolina Domestic Violence Intervention Program also offers treatment for abusers to help end the cycle of abuse and learn new methods of interaction with family members and intimate partners.
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