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COVID-19 related domestic violence on the increase

Soaring demand for services

Isabell Rivera ow contributor | 4/30/2020, midnight

It has been more than a month since Los Angeles and other cities all around the world began Safer at Home Orders due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But sometimes being at home isn’t the safest.

With schools being closed, and everyone being at home 24/7—sometimes in tight spaces—tension and stress has led to a surge in domestic violence cases, which includes sexual and physical violence, stalking, as well as psychological harm.

From 2019 to 2020, calls regarding domestic violence to public services in LA County have risen from 863 to 933, an 8.11-percent increase, the LA County Sheriff’s Department reported. Amid the shelter-at-home advisory, sheriff services and other resources are still available 24/7 and the department encourages victims of domestic violence to reach out for help.

According to collected data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in five women and one in seven men reported to have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner.

There is a high risk of injury and death linked to domestic violence. An estimated 41 percent of female survivors and roughly 14 percent of male survivors of domestic violence experienced physical injury and 1 in 6 didn’t survive their ordeal.

“During this crisis, we’re all working to do our part to help flatten the curve to keep our communities safe,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a recent press release. “That means staying at home and listening to guidance provided by state and local public health officials. Unfortunately, home isn’t always a safe place. That’s why it’s crucial that we all have the tools necessary to protect ourselves and our loved ones. There’s never an excuse for violence against an intimate partner. My office is grateful to all those who continue to work to support survivors of abuse during these trying times. We may be physically apart, but nobody is alone.”

Eighteen law enforcement departments nationwide reported a rise in domestic violence in the month of March, according to NBC News.

Many families are under a lot of financial stress due to being laid off; unemployment process delays; high debt; and anxiety about what the future will bring. Some couples are working from home and may feel overwhelmed trying to juggle work, managing the household and homeschooling.

Domestic violence can even appear in families without any prior history of violent behavior.

“We know social isolation can really have devastating impacts on the safety, health, and wellbeing of victims,” Dr. Amanda Stylianou, domestic violence expert at Rutgers University, told NBC News. “Being able to wake up in the morning to leave their home to go to safe schools, workplaces, to visit family and neighbors is really critical and is a really important protective factor for them in a time where that protective factor is gone.”

Although shelters for women and children remain open and provide a 24/7 service, many shelters are housing close to their allowed capacity. This forces them to turn to hotels or motels in their area if they run out of space, a costly solution in the long run. Due to COVID-19 and the shelter-at-home order, many nonprofit shelters had to postpone or even cancel fundraisers, which resulted in major gaps in their annual budgets.