Introduction and summary
As the United States continues to grapple with the devastating fallout of the coronavirus pandemic—from deaths, job loss, evictions, and so much more—there has also been a surge of domestic violence (DV).1 Stay-at-home orders essential to slowing the spread of the virus, coupled with the economic and health stressors caused by the pandemic, have forced DV survivors already at risk of domestic abuse into even more vulnerable and dangerous positions. While the piecemeal nature of data reporting by states and localities makes it difficult to paint an accurate picture of the prevalence and severity of DV overall—especially during this pandemic—available fragmented data from counties across the country indicate that almost every state has reported increases in DV.2 In addition, other countries’ experiences—where rates of DV have also skyrocketed, by nearly 300 percent in some nations—may be illuminating, according to similarly fragmented data from February and March.3 Even more concerning is that the initial increases in reports of DV in the United States were often followed by a significant dip in reporting, indicating that many survivors facing the threat of continued or escalating violence were unable to find space or time away from an abuser to reach out for help, or else saw no hope or available solutions.4 Reported spikes in gun purchases are also disturbing given the fact that the presence of a gun in a household with a history of DV makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.5 Months into the pandemic, media attention on the shadow crisis of DV has waned—but the needs of survivors have not.
As noted above, the data about incidents of DV not only are limited, but they also have not been uniformly disaggregated—by sex, gender, race, or any other factor—if at all. However, based on data from natural disasters, the Great Recession, and other major events that share similarities with the current pandemic, it is almost certain that women, particularly Native women, undocumented immigrant women, and other women of color, as well as LGBTQ people and disabled people, are continuing to experience higher rates of DV compared with the general population.6