Study Confirms a Global Surge in Domestic Violence During the Pandemic

A new analysis, led by a sociologist at the University of Miami for the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, finds that stay-at-home orders essential to suppressing the highly contagious virus had the negative consequence of increasing domestic violence incidents by more than 8 percent in the United States.

Researchers compared the number of domestic violence incidents before and after multiple jurisdictions began imposing stay-at-home restrictions last spring. The studies included analyses of data from Australia, Brazil, India, Italy, Sweden, Mexico, as well as the United States.

The studies relied on administrative data from police logs for domestic violence calls, crime and incident reports, domestic violence hotlines, and health records. The researchers confirmed what social workers, educators, police, and global humanitarians have been warning for months: that the pandemic’s isolation policies are exacerbating domestic violence. The researchers specifically found an average 7.9 percent increase in international domestic violence incidents and an average 8.1 percent spike in the U.S.

“When you have individuals who are not used to being together 24/7, you’re going to have pent-up stress and anxiety,” said Alex Piquero, chair of the University of Miami’s department of sociology and lead author of the study. “Add to that all the problems we’ve seen during the pandemic — with people losing their jobs, with children schooled at home, with increased alcohol sales and opioid use — it’s easy to imagine a world where people who are trapped together are going to lash out at each other.”

Dr. Piquero is certain that the increases are even far bigger than their report reflects. “There’s no doubt it is a lot worse than 8 percent. Just imagine all the stuff that we have no data on — the places where the machismo is so strong or where gender norms are so different. And all we looked at is physical abuse. Imagine the emotional abuse that doesn’t get reported. Imagine the kids in those homes who witnessed the violence. There is a whole toll there that people haven’t talked about or studied.”

Felicia Marie Knaul, director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas and a professor at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and a co-author of the report, added that “violence against women and children was a pandemic before COVID and will continue to be one after, unless we meet this public health crisis head on with policies, resources, and changes in attitudes and norms.”

Professor Knaul earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and international development from the University of Toronto. She received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

The full 21-page report, Domestic Violence During COVID, may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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