New research confirms domestic violence cases spiked during pandemic

New research confirms domestic violence cases spiked during pandemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - We've been hearing from advocates for months about a presumed uptick in domestic violence since the coronavirus pandemic started.

Now new data backs that up.

Laura Cowan has been busy answering calls for help during the pandemic.

“It was like walking on eggshells at home. All of the resources were pretty much closed,” she said.

She's an advocate fighting domestic violence. And a survivor herself.

“Due to mostly the stay at home order, being locked down, being without a job or going to school, you had an escalating factor of stress, tension in the home,” Cowan said.

She is not surprised research now backs up what she’s seeing and what we’ve been reporting for weeks.

The pandemic led to a nearly 7.5 percent increase in calls for service during March, April and May, according to research just presented to the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice.

Researchers analyzed police calls from 14 large American cities – including Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

They compared those calls to the same time in 2019.

“First I think it’s important to be able to quantify, really understand the effects of the pandemic, so we want to really know what the impacts are so we can better understand how we can try to address it,” said Riley Wilson, assistant professor of economics at Brigham Young University.

Wilson is one of the researchers on the study.

They also found the increase in domestic violence came across all different neighborhoods, and many people called police for help for the first time during the pandemic.

According to the study, the biggest increase in domestic violence was in the first five weeks when social distancing began, up 9.7% in March and April.

In many cities, this started before statewide stay-at-home mandates began.

Wilson said there could be several lessons learned from their findings.

“Just undoing lockdowns, doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily going to reduce the stress associated with the pandemic and reduce domestic violence. Maybe there’s other things that might need to be used to try and address this,” Wilson said.

Wilson thinks the stimulus payments may help, for example, because victims at least aren't as worried about paying the bills when they're in crisis.

Cowan is still looking for solutions herself, worried the cycle is going to repeat itself with many kids going back to school remotely and some mothers stuck at home with their abusers again.

“It’s going virtual, especially in Cleveland. For at least three months. So you have it all starting all over again, when you’re almost forced to stay home again,” Cowan said.

Researchers pointed out police calls are not a perfect measure of the number of domestic violence incidents.

It may be harder for victims to call for help when they're staying at home.

But overall, this shows how much of an impact the pandemic has had on domestic violence across many major cities.

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