By: Megan Broudy
While many other crimes have decreased, domestic violence reports have increased since the beginning of shelter-in-place orders. The increase is likely due to the fact that domestic violence is a crime that occurs behind closed doors, in the comfort of one’s home. Since Americans are encouraged to stay inside, this issue has forced many to spend time with abusive significant others. Domestic Violence has increased 30% under lockdown in America. These statistics are alarming, but unfortunately, not surprising given the statistics that already existed beforehand. Women in abusive relationships would rather be in the presence of an abusive partner than risk exposure to the virus. For many, it has come down to weighing risks, so they have no choice and their children in danger. It’s even more alarming that half of domestic violence cases go unreported, so it’s impossible to even know the full extent of it.
Many structural issues in American society have come to the surface in ugly ways since the dawn of the COVID19 pandemic. These issues include many socioeconomic factors, so those with less privilege and resources have been suffering the most. People of color, women, and children have experienced many injustices recently. They have to rely on a government that was never meant to protect their rights in the first place. The reason why domestic violence statistics were high in the first place was because our government has failed to protect those most vulnerable in society. We need a government that will protect all of its citizens, especially those who have been marginalized.
So, what should the government do to help protect the underprivileged from domestic violence, especially in the time of a national crisis? There isn’t an easy answer to this question, but I think the beginnings of a solution might lie in restructuring the power dynamics of our country. The horrors of domestic violence stem from the fact that many women are reliant on their partners, so in the case of a pandemic, they become even more reliant. If women suffering from domestic violence received more communal support and were less reliant on their abusive partners, it may help. The government must socialize policies like childcare and eldercare to help women more independent and able to stand on their own. The emphasis should be on ensuring the independence of women inside the household, rather than trying to unify them with their abusive partner and protect households from splitting up.
Now is the time for an open conversation about our approach to domestic violence in America. Has it been our goal to protect women, or has it been to keep families together? We need to address these questions, so we can move toward better solutions for victims.