COVID-19 Leads to Increased Risk of Domestic Violence
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. By the end of March, the United States was already seeing a rapid growth of cases in densely populated areas, and by July, many states were recording over 1,000 new cases every day. Public health authorities, mayors and governors issued lockdowns, resulting in millions of lost jobs and exacerbating an already large national problem of domestic violence.
Increased Stress Leads to More Violence in the Home
The lockdowns, quarantine and isolation resulting from COVID-19 have forced many victims of domestic violence to be in close quarters with their abusive partners. If one or both partners has lost a job, they may be behind in on rent and bills and unable to pay for other essentials. This added stress makes a domestic offender more likely to act out in violence. Domestic abusers who were previously required to attend therapy, get counseling or meet in discussion groups may no longer have access to their mental health care services. Therefore, their ability to cope with the added stress may decrease. This puts victims at a high risk of more frequent and more severe abuse and violence in the home.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, the three months of quarantine will result in a 20% rise in intimate partner violence throughout the world. The UN’s report estimates that at least 15 million additional cases of domestic violence will occur because of pandemic lockdowns.
Closure of Shelters
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence shelters offered a place where women and children could go to get away from their abusers. Because of COVID-19, most shelters have suspended their operations. They aren’t allowing new residents to move into their facilities. With nowhere to go, you may feel as if you are stuck with your abuser. It’s important to know that there are emergency shelters, and emergency responders will continue to answer calls for help if you feel that your life is threatened.
Reduced Access to Resources
As of July 2020, there have been more than 182,000 cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey. Pennsylvania has had 106,000 confirmed cases. Public resources are stretched thin. You may have a more difficult time reaching social services on the phone because in-person facilities have closed or reduced their hours. However, some situations will help you gain access to community resources in less time. Those situations include:
- A household member has been exposed to COVID-19.
- You are an essential worker.
- You have children.
- Your partner’s behavior puts you at an increased risk of COVID-19.
- Your partner won’t allow you to seek care for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Your partner won’t give you access to food or essentials if you have COVID-19.
The Slowdown of Court Proceedings
If you’ve applied for a restraining order because of your partner’s abuse, you may find yourself waiting for a longer period of time to have your application processed. Some courts stopped handling any cases for several weeks. Others have turned to technology, using Zoom meetings with the judge, attorneys, defendants and plaintiffs in separate locations to maintain social distancing. For you, this means having to wait longer for any kind of legal action related to your domestic violence case. However, you should not give up if you’re dealing with domestic abuse. These longer wait times will give you more time to consult with a family lawyer and plan a course of action for your future. If necessary, seek refuge by living with a friend or loved one until court proceedings speed up again.
Get Legal Assistance
If you are experiencing domestic violence, a Jenkintown family law attorney may be able to help you protect your rights. At Morgenstern & Rochester in Cherry Hill, NJ, we assist domestic violence survivors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We’re here to help you protect yourself during this stressful time. To learn more or schedule a consultation with a Jenkintown family law attorney, call us at (856) 489-6200. You can also visit our website to learn more about our firm.