The order to shelter in place has led many vulnerable people to be trapped in a dangerous place. In addition to known abusers spending more time with their partners and children, the stress of sheltering in place, limited access to entertainment, and financial instability are turning spouses into abusers at dangerously high rates.
Per the American Psychological Association, domestic abuse can be fatal. One in six homicide victims dies at the hand of an intimate partner.
Because cultural assignment of responsibility tends to be on the victim rather than the abuser, those suffering domestic abuse or at risk for it don’t have much recourse during the lockdown. The phrase “Why didn’t they leave?” gets bounced around quite a bit when someone dies at the hands of their spouse or partner. This judgment leads to destructive shame and burden on the victim.
Many sufferers of intimate partner abuse receive long-lasting injuries that can cause health problems long into the future. Constant head and neck trauma can result in concentration problems, memory challenges, anxiety, and depression.
Children constantly exposed to the risk of physical abuse can suffer extremely high levels of stress. Chronically living in fight or flight mode, particularly when there is no option for flight due to the pandemic, can lead children to despair, hopelessness, depression, and violent reactions to non-violent threats.
A Lifetime of Poor Choices
Women raised by men who abuse their female partners are six times more likely to be abused by a partner in adulthood. Boys who see their father abuse their mothers are ten times more likely to abuse their partner in adulthood. Domestic partner abuse is a learned, ugly, and brutal habit. The stress and pressure of the COVID-19 are turning normal homes into stress-filled ones and stress-filled homes into dangerous places.
Women And Girls At Risk
Anyone, male or female, can be a victim of domestic violence. Sexual violence directed at men is on the rise, and the damage can be life-limiting and traumatic. However, current trends in tracking rates of spousal abuse during the pandemic lockdown demonstrate a particular risk to women.
As women are the primary caretakers of children and the home on sick days, the pandemic has made the working life of women more of a challenge. Women have long served as the backstop for family crises, taking time off to cover scheduling bumps, snow days, and other emergencies.
However, COVID-19 has stretched women who work outside the home and their burdens to the breaking point. For women who can work from home, coordinating their tasks for their job with guiding children through remote learning and managing the household all at once is simply impossible. For women who can’t work from home, the loss of income, and any sense of autonomy while they become more financially reliant on a partner who may become dangerous is particularly stressful.
Rates of violence in the home are spiking across the world as pandemic pressure increases. Worse, these rising rates are not getting the attention they deserve because attention is focused elsewhere. The legacy of COVID-19 will likely alter many members of the next generation.