Safer at Home? Domestic Violence Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Jessica Glynn, Esq. | Senior Director of Law and Policy, YWCA Kalamazoo

Reports of domestic violence have increased across the world since the outbreak of Covid-19 following the implementation of stay at home orders.1 Indeed, the practice most necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19—limiting social contacts outside of one’s immediate family—has bound victims to their homes and made them dramatically less safe by reducing their access to service providers, law enforcement, and the courts, which have implemented their own procedures to reduce spread of the disease. This article discusses victims’ experiences in seeking help during the pandemic through anecdotal case examples from a victim’s rights attorney and provides thoughts on what attorneys and courts can do to assist victims in reaching safety in the months ahead while virtual court hearings and remote legal services remain the norm.

Dynamics of Domestic Violence During a Pandemic Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, epidemiological reports estimated that nearly one in three women has experienced domestic violence.2 Data also has shown that nearly half of all female homicides in the United States are perpetrated by a current or past male intimate partner.3 Several studies have reported that violence against women increases during natural disasters and pandemics.4 Recent studies have also shown that domestic violence increases when families spend more time together, such as over holidays.5 Unfortunately, the realities of Covid-19 and its restrictions have undeniably caused a perfect storm for victims worldwide. 6 Immediately after stay-in-place orders were mandated, YWCA Kalamazoo, one of Michigan’s oldest victim services agencies, saw a perceptible

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