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The Pandemic Paradox: Increases of Domestic Violence during COVID - Safe Harbor Shelter

Safe Harbor is passionate about rebuilding the lives of survivors of domestic violence.  So, this October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we want to alert you to how the Covid-19 global pandemic has exacerbated domestic violence here in Richmond, across the country, and even all over the globe.  The United Nations went so far as to call the rise in domestic violence a shadow pandemic.  Only when the Covid crisis is resolved will we fully understand the scope of the shadow pandemic that accompanied it.

While local governments mandated quarantines and shutdowns to keep communities and individuals safe, these officials created unintended consequences.  Economic instability, job loss, and a lack of safe, stable childcare increased tensions and produced an environment ripe for abuse.  And the contours of quarantine living made it hard for victims to call for help as evidenced in this survivor’s account:

When Covid hit, Sarah’s partner lost his job, which plunged the family into financial insecurity. Then came the added stress of having to homeschool their two kids and the loss of support systems.  It was the perfect storm of stressors that caused her partner to one night lash out at her and hit her so hard that she fell backward over the sofa and hit her head on the coffee table—all in front of their kids.

When she came to, she was scared, stunned, and ashamed. For months the abuse continued. It wasn’t until the world started to open back up, that Sarah was able to get out of the house long enough to make a call for help. 

Cathy Easter, Safe Harbor’s Executive Director elaborates on this, “The Covid-19 pandemic in and of itself doesn’t create abusers, it created conditions that increased existing abuse.  And it ratcheted up the risk of family violence enormously.  Furthermore, it gave abusers another tool, making it easier for them to exert power and control, to trap their victims at home by saying, ‘You can’t go out; you will get sick.'”

Almost 20 months into the pandemic, we are seeing that Covid-19 has made domestic violence more common and often more severe.  According to a study done by the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, domestic violence incidents increased across the US an average of 8.1% after jurisdictions imposed pandemic-related lockdown orders.  But the real numbers are probably much higher, with studies showing that more than half of all domestic violence incidents go unreported. 

Here in Richmond, we’ve seen a huge rise in domestic violence as evidenced by a 40% increase in protective orders in the last year.  Throughout this crisis, Safe Harbor has provided safe, uninterrupted comprehensive services to our domestic violence clients.  Our therapists and case managers have worked tirelessly to provide support and to innovate new ways to help clients trapped with an abuser.

We need your help now more than ever.  We’ve seen a 250% increase in demand for counseling services and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We expect to see demand continue to increase well into 2022.

What can you do to support domestic violence survivors this month?

Make a Donation.  Your money will go directly to support counseling and case management services for domestic violence clients. 

Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn 

Wear Purple. — the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month — during the month of October and share on social media why the issue of domestic violence is important to you.  Tag Safe Harbor so that people can learn about our services and how we can help.

Walk With Us. – And please participate in our upcoming Walk to End It, November 12-14. For more information or to register click here.