Each year in the US, nearly 7 million women and 5.7 million men are victims of domestic violence. As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on communities around the world, domestic violence victims face a unique set of challenges to their safety and well-being.

In times of crisis—including the Great Recession and after natural disasters—evidence shows that risk of domestic violence increases for some women. Alarmingly, new data suggest the current crisis is no exception.

Domestic violence calls for service spiked during March in many US cities. In New York City alone, domestic violence calls to police were up 7 percent between January 1 and late March this year, relative to the same period in 2019.

This trend is consistent with global increases in domestic violence associated with lockdown orders, which recently led the United Nations to call for increased advocacy to address violence against women and girls.

Stay-at-home orders—which currently affect 95 percent of Americans—are especially difficult for victims living with an abusive partner. Being inside together for longer periods of time may increase opportunities for abuse. Some studies indicate that abuse increases around holidays, when families spend more time together.

Courts, victim services agencies, and communities must work together to help victims navigate the new and complex challenges of simultaneously dealing with COVID-19 and abusive situations. Below are four ways they can respond.

  1. Extending orders of protection and virtually petitioning for new orders of protection
  2. Extending remote support and services
  3. Explaining to victims how stay-at-home orders apply to them
  4. Engaging neighbors, family, and friends—from a distance

Read the full article about supporting victims of domestic violence by Storm Ervin and Sara Bastomski at Urban Institute.