Officials are concerned about a rise in domestic violence amid the statewide shelter-in-place order that took effect April 3.
Experts say that the coronavirus outbreak has limited victims’ outlets for relief that includes running errands, speaking with counselors and visiting friends.
Some of the victims’ exit plans have been shattered because of the pandemic after months of planning to leave their abuser.
“It is the perfect storm for someone who wants to isolate or hurt their partners,” said Val Kalei Kanuha, assistant dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work said in an interview with CNN.
During his press conference to announce the shelter-in-place executive order, Gov. Brian Kemp acknowledged that there has been an uptick in reported cases of domestic violence.
“As we continue to fight this virus, our office is receiving reports that are concerning and deserve the public’s immediate attention,” Kemp said. “We have been told by one Atlanta-area hospital that they are seeing a 15% increase in domestic violence cases in their facility. This is disturbing and cannot be tolerated.”
History has shown that domestic violence cases spike during times of prolonged stress and disruptions.
This is the first time in a century that Americans have lived through a virus pandemic like the current situation.
The added stress has driven a lot of people to purchasing firearms and consumption of alcohol. Guns sales have surged since the spread of the virus.
Several people are experiencing financial hardship with many businesses closing.
A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits.
A 2013 study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine reports that as unemployment rates rise, so does the chances of people engaging in dangerous drinking habits.
The World Health Organization said there is evidence shows that excessive drinking worsens the frequency of domestic violence.
Dr. Kenneth Genova, a physician with Tanner Health System at its Willowbrooke facility, said that dysfunctional families living in close quarters, combined with an abundance of time, and the possible addition of alcohol or other substances, can be a dangerous combination.
Georgia Commission on Family Violence issued a joint statement on Tuesday with the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence about the situation.
The statement said, “families will be even more stressed with lost work, closed schools and the realities of this illness, posing a unique threat to people in abusive relationships.”
During a message from the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis did a livestream prayer about victims of domestic violence.
“Today,” he said, “I want to remember with you how much many women do — including in this time of a health emergency — to care for others: women doctors, nurses, law enforcement and prison officers, clerks in stores selling basic necessities and all the moms, sisters and grandmothers who find themselves closed in their homes with the whole family, with children, the elderly, those with disabilities.
“Sometimes,” the pope said, “they risk being subjected to violence because of a living situation in which they bear too great a burden. We pray for them that the Lord would give them strength and that our communities would support them together with their families. May the Lord give us the courage of women to always go forward.”
While the domestic abuse reporting is up, Kemp said that there has been a reduction of child abuse cases being reported. He said some of that can be traced to the fact that school has been closed since mid-March because of the virus.
“We are also seeing a reduction in the reports of child abuse, likely as a consequence of our educators not having as much face time with Georgia students,” Kemp said. “Teachers and administrators are often the first ones to see the signs of abuse, and with schools closed, we must remain vigilant about this problem and work to remedy it. If you are a child in crisis or know of someone who needs help, please reach out to the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.”
The National Domestic Violence Helpline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Georgia’s Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-334-2836. The S.H.A.R.E. House in Douglas County has a 24-hour crisis line at 770-489-7513.