The Hidden Danger of COVID-19 Domestic Violence
By Alanna Williams
There has been a surge in domestic violence throughout the country over the past month. COVID-19 is a playground for batterers who can isolate their spouse or partner from their family, friends, and doctors. Victims are afraid to go to the hospital in fear of catching the virus.
Between March 30 and April 4, 2020, the Fairfax County Police responded to 77 domestic dispute calls. The average number of calls for help is approximately 200 per month1. If the reported cases continue at 77 every five days, the increase in domestic disputes, with police intervention, is over 333 for the month. There are also countless cases that go unreported.
Like COVID-19, domestic violence knows no boundaries. It affects the affluent and the poor. It affects people of all backgrounds and religions. It affects the educated and the less educated. The perpetrators are both men and women.
During our lockdown, most people are experiencing an enormous amount of stress as they lose their jobs, the children are out of school, and alcohol consumption is increasing. Children are home all day and parents are trying to keep them entertained and educated. There are no social outlets for adults or children. Restaurants, malls, and parks are all closed. Unfortunately, for some, this is a recipe for violence.
The wheel below depicts the power and control a perpetrator uses against his or her spouse or partner. An abuser often starts out slowly, generally with emotional and psychological manipulation in order to make their partner feel helpless, weak, and never good enough. By the time the physical abuse begins, many times the victim has low self-esteem, feels guilty, or responsible for being abused. The victim makes excuses for the bruises and is emotionally and many times economically dependent on the abuser. The perpetrator, on the other hand, is extremely jealous, blames others for their actions, never accepts responsibility, is unable to deal with stress, lacks impulse control, and believes violence is a way to solve problems.
If you are in an abusive relationship, please get help now. No one deserves to be belittled, hit, punched, strangled, slammed against a wall, or forced to have sex against their will.
Fairfax County has a 24-hour domestic & sexual violence hotline which is (703) 360-7273. There is also the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Action Center at (703) 246-4573.
Online information is at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/domesticviolence and fairfaxdvcommunity.org
The Power and Control Wheel was created by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs in Deluth, MN. You can visit their website here.
1 Fairfax County Domestic Violence Prevention Policy & Coordinating Council.