Closing schools and businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has people feeling more anxious and fearful, Kim Garrett of Palomar, Oklahoma City’s family justice center, told the Oklahoman. “When families are forced to be isolated and their incomes potentially limited, it’s going to create a lot more stress for families that are already volatile,” she said. “I absolutely think it could increase domestic violence and child abuse.”
Palomar serves victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and child and elder abuse. Its clients often are in crisis and seeking protective orders or shelters. Some are seeking referrals for attorneys and therapists while others are coming for victim empowerment and safety classes. “If you’re quarantined with people for 14 days, it can escalate tension, even among healthy families, especially the fear of the unknown,” Garrett said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to be.” Jan Peery of the YWCA in Oklahoma City, which provides crisis services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, said domestic violence is about power and control. “Anytime a perpetrator feels like they’re losing control it’s most likely going to escalate their behavior,” she said. Oklahoma has struggled with high rates of domestic violence. From 2013 to 2016, it ranked among the six worst states for its rate of women killed by men in single-victim, single-offender incidents. During the past several years, the state has seen improvement. Last year, the state tied for a rank of 20th.