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  • Writer's pictureLeslie A. Farber

The “Shadow Pandemic” of Domestic Violence

There is growing evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in domestic violence – both here in the U.S. and around the world. Although lockdowns may have decreased the spread of the virus, they have created an ideal environment for intimate partner abuse. The increased isolation, coupled with the extra stress caused by job loss and the lack of ability to pay for housing and food, has left more people suffering what the United Nations calls “a shadow pandemic” of domestic abuse within the larger pandemic of the virus itself.

Domestic violence, also called "domestic abuse" or "intimate partner violence," is a pattern of behavior that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse can be in the form of physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, control, isolate or injure someone. But they do not always take the form of actual or threatened violence and can include a pattern or harassing text messages, emails or phone calls, or stalking and other behavior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of women and 10% of men experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background or education level. It can occur in a range of relationships including couples who are married, living together or dating.

Abusive relationships typically involve an imbalance of power, with the abuser using intimidating words and behaviors to control his or her partner. In some relationships, the abuse may start subtly and escalate in frequency and severity over time. Incidents of domestic violence are rarely isolated, and may culminate in serious physical injury or death.

Victims of domestic abuse may include another household member or a child. Even if the child is not abused, simply witnessing domestic violence can be harmful. Children who grow up in abusive homes are more likely to be abused and have behavioral problems than other children. As adults, they're more likely to become abusers or think abuse is a normal part of relationships.

Increased social isolation during COVID-19 has created an environment where victims and aggressors cannot easily separate themselves from each other. For trapped victims, it is harder to call hotlines when the abuser is quarantining with them. Securing space in a local shelter may also be more difficult, as social distancing has forced many facilities to reduce their capacity to limit the risk of spreading the virus.

Surveys have shown domestic abuse increasing on a global scale since January of 2020. In the U.S., police departments report upticks in cities across the country, including 10% in New York City, 18% in San Antonio and 22% in Portland, Oregon. Quarantine-linked domestic violence is impacting more than women in heterosexual relationships, occurring in same-sex couples at rates equal to or even higher than the rates in opposite sex partners. Communities of color that may have lower incomes and less access to social and private services are also affected more severely.

The pandemic has clearly exacerbated the silent epidemic of domestic violence, but resources and support continue to be available for victims and their families. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) provides crisis intervention and referrals to free or low-cost resources. Local domestic violence shelters and crisis centers typically provide 24-hour emergency shelter, as well as advice on legal matters and advocacy and support services. If you are an immigrant, you may also be eligible for legal protections that allow immigrants who experience domestic abuse to stay in the U.S. In New Jersey, victims can get protection by seeking restraining orders from county family (civil) court and/or local municipal (criminal) courts.

Seeking help is the best way to break the cycle of domestic violence and protect you and your children. Remember, you are not alone and there are people who can help. If you need legal assistance, please contact us at 973-707-3322 or

The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances

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