Domestic Violence Is Rising amid Pandemic — and 'Vulnerable People Are Not Able to Report'
In the United States, approximately 24 people per minute are physically abused by a partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline — and since lockdown began due to the coronavirus, experts across the globe say the crisis is only getting worse.
In what the United Nations has called a “shadow pandemic,” cases of domestic violence have risen as people remain confined to their homes, some out of work and money and others forced to go without their typical support systems.
“Sometimes, reported abuse cases are falling dramatically, and you would think that violence is going down, but it’s just the opposite,” Christina Wegs, global advocacy director for sexual and reproductive health and rights for CARE, told the Washington Post. “The drop is reflecting that women and vulnerable people are not able to report what’s happening.”
Statistics presented by the Post lay out the jarring facts: Domestic violence reports in China’s Hubei province tripled during lockdown. Cases were up 35 percent in Paraguay in March 2020 as compared to March 2019. In France, the jump was 30 percent in the first two weeks of lockdown.
In Lebanon, too, 54 percent of vulnerable women reported an increase in violence and harassment during the pandemic, while 44 percent said they felt less safe at home. The same went for Colombia, where a study showed intrafamily violence against women 29-59 spiked 94 percent between March and May, according to the Post.
“You see this in times of crisis,” Wegs told the outlet. “Abuse goes up as there are incredible strains on families and people are confined together without choice.”
Across the globe, other sobering statistics regarding the effect of the pandemic have begun to emerge, too.
RELATED VIDEO: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall Reveals Her Personal Connection to Domestic Violence: 'It Affects Everybody'
Emergency calls for domestic violence cases increased by 25 percent since lockdown began in Argentina, and the U.S.’s National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a rising number of victims reaching out through phone or text, according to the UN.
The agency also reported that a survey out of New South Wales, Australia found that 40 percent of frontline workers reported increased requests for help with violence that was “escalating in intensity and complexity.”
In Massachusetts, radiology scans taken from a local hospital between March 11 and May 3 found that the number of patients with injuries “consistent with either superficial wounds or serious abuse” was 26 — a number about the same as the total during the same weeks for 2018 and 2019 combined, according to HealthDay News.
Dr. Amanda Stylianou, the quality improvement director at Rutgers University’s Behavioral Health Care center, previously told PEOPLE that the fear of coronavirus was a tactic abusers used as a means of controlling their victims, like for example, threatening to throw them out of the home in a time of crisis.
The isolation of lockdown also worsened the situation, as survivors and victims who previously depended on social connectedness as a lifeline found themselves cut off from those protective factors, and without support.
“A lot of times people are able to escape the house until things calm down [when there’s violence]. [They] go to a neighbor’s, go to a family member’s to just get out of the house for the day,” Stylianou said. “Sometimes that distance is an important kind of safety tool that survivors use, and that’s not really an option right now for many survivors.”
She added that the economic downturn also proved troublesome, as financial hardship could make it difficult for those who have recently left an abusive relationship and are struggling to stay afloat solo.
As previously outlined to PEOPLE by Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, warning signs that someone is being abused include partners who insult them in front of other people, seeming constantly worried about angering their partner, making excuses for their partner’s behavior and partners seeming extremely jealous or possessive.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.