As the coronavirus pandemic continues, experts warn of the devastating effects of a rise in domestic violence. With close living quarters, financial and economic stress, and increased substance abuse, domestic violence cases are trending upward. Health and human service organizations can help mitigate this rise through regular screening and increased awareness.
Domestic Violence Trends
Did you know that on average, nearly 20 people per minute experience physical abuse by an intimate partner in the United States? In the span of a year, this equates to over 10 million men and women.
This violent and aggressive behavior is known as domestic violence. The most common form of domestic violence is intimate partner violence, including psychological, sexual, or physical abuse from one partner to another. Children and elders can also suffer from domestic violence. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men report experiencing some form of domestic violence each year. In the wake of the pandemic, experts predict this number will be even higher.
Data from US police departments confirm this hypothesis. Regions across the nation reported increased domestic violence reports and arrests following the surge in coronavirus. For example:
- Portland, Oregon experienced a 22% increase in arrests relating to domestic violence when compared to pre-pandemic weeks;
- San Antonio, Texas recorded an 18% increase in calls relating to family violence in March 2020 compared to March 2019;
- Jefferson County, Alabama reported a 27% increase in domestic violence calls following the increase in coronavirus cases;
- New York City Police Department responded to a 10% increase in domestic violence reports compared to March of the year before.
Domestic violence is trending upward in most, if not all, areas of the United States.
Impact of Domestic Violence
What does this increase in domestic violence mean for us?
It is important to note that domestic violence does not impact all Americans equally. Those who live in disadvantaged communities are at higher risk of experiencing abuse. These disadvantages, such as lower socio-economic status, education, and access to healthcare correlate strongly with social determinants of health.
For health and human service organizations, efforts that may at first seem unrelated to domestic violence, may in fact play a critical role in its prevention.
For example, a non-profit food bank may help struggling families receive the food and nutrition they need. However, these struggling families are likely also experiencing other adverse social determinants of health; unemployment, lack of transportation, or inaccessible healthcare, just to name a few. As such, they are more statistically likely to also be experiencing domestic violence.
This does not suggest that all people experiencing adverse social determinants of health are also dealing with domestic violence. However, it does show how critical it is for organizations to be aware of how to identify and prevent domestic violence.
Screening for Domestic Violence
For social programs and organizations, one of the best ways to help stop domestic violence during the pandemic is to incorporate screening. Even if your program does not offer services specifically designed to address domestic violence, you can still help by recognizing the signs and referring individuals to the right resources.
Screening is critical because not only is it effective but also low cost. Reportedly, less than 15% of programs currently provide specific questioning on domestic violence. This low rate means that only 7-25% of domestic abuse is currently recognized by providers. Perhaps most importantly, data suggest that “most women expect health care providers and other organizations to initiate dialog about violence, rather than offering the information themselves”.
Your program can begin screening today by simply adding a few questions to an intake survey and coaching case managers on signs to look for in those they serve.
Organizations that utilize effective case management are best able to record, track, and act on data collected in important screenings like this. ClientTrack™ is an industry leading case management platform that helps hundreds of organizations each year accomplish their goals. Through case management software, programs can ensure that no one falls through the cracks and people receive the help and resources they need.
While the current trends of domestic violence are not looking good, there is always hope. As more organizations work together to identify domestic abuse, more people will receive the care they need.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, know that there is help. Please refer to the resources below for where to start:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: (Call 800-799-7233)
- Crisis Text Line: (Text HOME to 741741)
- National Parent Hotline: (Call 1-855-427-2736)
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: (visit https://www.childhelp.org/childhelp-hotline/ or call 1-800-422-4453)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: (visit http://thehotline.org, text LOVEIS to 22522, or call 1-800-799-7233)
- Futures Without Violence: (visit https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/resources-events/get-help/)
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