Considerations of the impacts of COVID-19 on domestic violence in the United States

Soc Sci Humanit Open. 2020;2(1):100069. doi: 10.1016/j.ssaho.2020.100069. Epub 2020 Oct 7.


"Stay home, save lives" has been shown to reduce the impacts of COVID-19; however, it is crucial to recognize that efforts not to stress healthcare systems may have unintended social consequences for domestic violence. This commentary addresses domestic violence as an important social and public health implication of COVID-19. As a pandemic with a high contagion level, necessary social distancing measures have been put in place across the world to slow transmission and protect medical services. We first present literature that shows that among the effects of social distancing are social and functional isolation and economic stress, which are known to increase domestic violence. We then present preliminary observations from a content analysis conducted on over 300 news articles from the first six weeks of COVID-19 "lockdown" in the United States: articles predict an increase in domestic violence, report an increase in domestic violence, and inform victims on how to access services. Assessing the intersection of the early news media messaging on the effect of COVID-19 on DV and the literature on social isolation and crisis situations, we conclude the commentary with implications for current policy related to (1) increased media attention, (2) increased attention in healthcare systems, (3) promoting social and economic security, and (4) long-term efforts to fund prevention and response, as well as research implications to consider. The research is presented as ongoing, but the policy and procedure recommendations are presented with urgency.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Domestic violence; Intimate partner violence; Social isolation.