Domestic Violence Crimes and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused upheaval around the world, not the least of which is an increase in domestic violence crimes. Stress, a lack of access to services and social networks, and stay at home orders all contribute to an increased risk of domestic violence. 

Why Does a Pandemic Cause an Increase in Domestic Violence?

According to the World Health Organization, intimate partner violence is likely to increase during times of extreme stress and social isolation. 

Examples of COVID-19 Stressors:

  • Family members are forced to spend more time in close contact. 
  • Family members face stressful situations, such as job loss or other economic strains, caused by the virus.
  • School closures have increased the amount of time children are at home and the amount of care they need. 

Lack of Access to Resources Due to COVID-19 Social Distancing and Isolation:

  • Support networks of family and friends are cut off.
  • People lack access to psychological support networks. 
  • Essential services such as sexual and reproductive health clinics, hotlines, crisis centers, shelters, and other protective services have shut down or offered limited services. 
  • Families lack access to help outside the home. 

All of these factors, and more, can trigger underlying issues or exacerbate conflicts, leading to an increase in violence at home. 

Where Does North Carolina Stand Today? 

After the mandatory stay at home order was lifted, North Carolina entered a second phase and remains under the “Safer at Home Phase 2 Order” through 5:00 p.m. on July 17, 2020 (which may be extended, as necessary). In March, when North Carolina was under a stay at home order, many counties reported sharp increases in domestic violence incidents as compared to March of the prior year. 

Transitioning from “stay at home” to “safer at home” means that many North Carolinians will be heading back to work and, hopefully, victims of domestic violence will have more access to the vital resources they need. However, only time will tell if the increase in domestic violence incidents that occurred during the early, stay at home order, days of the COVID-19 pandemic will subside as more restrictions are lifted. What is certain is that many of the stressors of coronavirus remain, regardless of whether a perpetrator and victim remain confined at home.