By: Casey Gwinn
Long before COVID-19 became a pandemic, there was another pandemic circulating in every country around the world — domestic violence. That pandemic within the pandemic has dramatically increased in recent weeks in the face of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, and its impacts are being felt in powerful and destructive ways. We must creatively and generously offer hope to all those in harm’s way.
Since mid-March, domestic violence calls for help have risen across the country and around the world. The intensity of the violence has also increased. In the United States, we are hearing that the violence is getting more severe than in the past — with one advocate describing the case of a woman beaten and choked four times in a week by her live-in abuser and thinking she must simply stay home and endure his violence.
Though calls for help are up, arrests and prosecutions for domestic violence have dropped in many jurisdictions. Courts are operating at reduced levels and jails and prisons have reduced their populations to avoid exposing inmates to the coronavirus, reducing accountability for abusers.
The result? Domestic violence murder-suicides have also spiked. This past week, Pheonicia Ratliff was kidnapped at gunpoint in front of her house in Canton, Mississippi. Hours later, her ex-boyfriend killed her and then himself on an interstate outside of Philadelphia after a police blockade stopped their car.
In our national tracking at Alliance for HOPE International, domestic violence murder-suicides have risen more than 70% in the last eight weeks, and adult and child victims have felt even more isolated and vulnerable than before the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders.
There should be immense public safety concern as domestic violence calls for help and domestic violence murder-suicides continue to rise. Murder-suicides happen at the intersection of rage and despair. They represent the misogynistic rage of abusers and the hopelessness of victims multiplied by the complex impacts of the coronavirus. So many victims were robbed of hope — the ability to set their own goals and find their own pathways in life — long before the virus. Now, their hopelessness is even greater.
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