Many of the strategies critical to ensuring public health, such as lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, social isolation, and social distancing, have a profound impact on families experiencing intimate partner violence, also known as IPV, according to a new paper in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy.

“In many instances of IPV, women are afraid to be alone with their abusive partners and experience a high degree of social isolation because they are afraid to tell their families and friends what is happening, out of both shame and fear that their abusive partner will hurt them, their children, or family members in retaliation for disclosure,” the authors write.

“In effect, the public health measures to protect people from COVID-19 are increasing the amount of time that women have to spend with their abusive partners at home, which raises their risk of injury exponentially,” they say.

The researchers are conducting a survey and will later lead focus groups to determine the seriousness of IPV locally in the New Orleans area.

While IPV has been a public health issue long before the pandemic, cases of reported IPV typically rise after disasters, says Reggie Ferreira, an associate professor of social work and director of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. His research focuses on the intersection of climate change, mental health, and resilience.

“This disaster, however, is different and is a slow onset crisis,” he says. “Due to associated stressors of COVID-19, such as financial strain and substance abuse, we can expect to see a significant increase in reported cases. The biggest concern is if the needed resources to mitigate and address this issue will be available.

Their own preliminary data appears to support that trend. Of 275 women surveyed, 59% reported an escalation of IPV among those who experienced it prior to the pandemic. In addition, 88% felt nervous and stressed in the past month and 95% expressed worry about the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

Read the full article about intimate partner violence during COVID-19 by Barri Bronston at Futurity.