Domestic violence spikes during pandemic

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Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence was one of the most common human rights abuses in the world, affecting one in three women. The issue becomes even more pressing during emergencies, which often exacerbate gender inequalities. 

Dr. Dabney P. Evans, associate professor of global health, looked at the impacts of COVID-19 on domestic violence, comparing incident reports filed with the Atlanta Police Department before and during the pandemic. She found that domestic violence reports spiked in March 2020, when city and state governments enacted shelter-in-place orders. 

Evans says there are several risk factors for domestic violence, including unemployment and social isolation. “So if you just think about those two things, we know that in Georgia the unemployment rate skyrocketed about 400 percent shortly after the pandemic hit,” she says. “We also know that social isolation is actually one of the public health measures that we were suggesting.” 

As a result, she explains, “we were mapping these dual or triple pandemics . . . the first being the COVID-19 pandemic, the second being the racial unrest and police violence happening in our country, and then this third pandemic of domestic or intimate partner violence.”

Evans acknowledges that while social isolation is critical for managing the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials should also consider the overall effects of these policies. She recommends that when governments enact shelter-in-place or similar orders, they should set aside resources for people impacted by violence.