Since the beginning of the pandemic (COVID-19), limits have been put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but domestic violence has increased according to emergency dispatchers and domestic violence safe havens.

During the pandemic, victims and survivors of domestic violence have been confined with their abusers, according to Linda Inmon, Extension associate-family and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

One in three women and one in four men in the United States are victims to violence by their significant other, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) In many instances, survivors sustain physical injuries from the abuser.

“Prior to the pandemic, there were one or two calls in one county per day for help because of abuse,” Inmon said. “Now, there are five to six calls per day pleading for help in that one county, according to an unnamed source.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline usually receives about 2,000 calls per day. Of those recent calls, 951 were recorded within a two-week period where COVID-19 was mentioned during the call.

The pandemic is being used by the abuser to further control and abuse their victim, according to Crystal Justice, chief marketing and development officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The most common calls the hotline receives are from healthcare workers or other essential employees whose abusers accuse them of purposely trying to infect them with COVID-19, Inmon said. Another caller to the hotline told the operator that the abuser would not allow preventive measures to prevent the spread of the virus such as hand sanitizer, soap and showering.

Melissa Godin, a journalist for Time Magazine, wrote that a woman was threatened to be thrown out on the street if she started coughing and feared if she left the house, her husband would lock her out.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that a growing number of callers say that their abusers are using COVID-19 to continue to isolate them from their friends and family.

“Domestic violence is rooted in power and control,” Inmon said. “The abusers, who are feeling a lack of control over their lives and do not know how to manage their stress, will more than likely take it out on their victim.”

The survivors of abuse are not the only ones to suffer more during this pandemic, Inmon said. The stress families are experiencing because of COVID-19 leaves children at a greater risk of abuse.

According to Yo Jackson, associate director of Child Abuse Solutions Network at Penn State, research indicates that “stress levels among parents is often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children.”

Violence can lead to harmful health and mental health outcomes, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and destructive sexual and substance abuse.

“The abuser is in denial,” Inmon said. “It is up to the victim to decide enough is enough and determine what is most important – yours and your children’s life and mental well-being or material possessions.”

To report abuse, people may contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via text or call at 1-800-799-7233.

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