The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused significant destruction worldwide. In the United States (US) as of April 18, 2020 there were 690,714 reported cases and 35,443 deaths [
]. In order to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 quarantines, social isolation, travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have been adopted [
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the U.S.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020
Date accessed: April 18, 2020
- Parmet W.E.
- Sinha M.S.
Covid-19 — the law and limits of quarantine.
N Engl J Med. 2020; 382: e28
]. While many states in the US implement stay-at-home orders differently, in most cases individuals are expected to stay indoors except for essential activities (e.g., obtaining food, medication, medical treatment) or for work in essential businesses (e.g., health care, essential infrastructure operations).
- Desantis R.
Governor EOoT State of Florida Office of the Governor Executive Order Number 20-91 (essential services and activities during COVID-19 emergency). State of Florida, 2020
Although these measures can be effective to control the spread of disease, they have a profound impact on society leading to social, financial and psychological repercussions. Isolation may expose or worsen vulnerabilities due to a lack of established social support systems. The temporary shutdown of non-essential businesses has led to unemployed and economic strain [
]. Quarantine conditions are associated with alcohol abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms [
- U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics
Labor force statistics from the current population survey.
]. Stay-at-home orders may cause a catastrophic milieu for individuals whose lives are plagued by domestic violence (DV).
- Brooks S.K.
- Webster R.K.
- Smith L.E.
- et al.
The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence.
Lancet. 2020; 395: 912-920https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
DV usually occurs in a domestic space when one individual holds power over another. DV is a broad term and typically includes intimate partner violence (IPV) (e.g., usually occurs between current or former intimate partners and includes stalking, psychological, sexual and physical violence) elder abuse (e.g., involves negligent or intentional acts which cause harm) and child abuse (e.g., includes neglect, physical harm, sexual violence, and emotional harm) [
]. However, for the purpose of report we will primarily refer to DV as it pertains to IPV. Forms of DV such as IPV are unfortunately quite common. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men report experiencing some form of IPV each year [
- Huecker M.R.
- Smock W.
in: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island (FL)2020
- Smith S.G.
- Zhang X.
- Basile K.C.
- et al.
The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2015 data brief–updated release.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic trends regarding DV are already starting to emerge on a global scale. Reports from local police near the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in China's Hubei province, indicate that DV tripled during February 2020 compared to February 2019 [
]. Also, according to the United Nations entity UN Women, DV reports in France have increased 30% since they initiated a March 17 lockdown. DV calls in Argentina have increased 25% since their March 20 lockdown [
- Fraser E.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on violence against women and girls.
Development UAftDoI, 2020
]. The organization also reports a 30% increase in helpline calls in Cyprus and 33% increase in Singapore [
]. However, in the US, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on DV is just beginning to be realized via anecdotal reports since there is limited data available to assess how DV has changed following implementation of stay-at-home orders.
Data from US police departments provide some early insight into the effect COVID-19 has had on DV in some regions. For instance, in Portland, Oregon public schools closed March 16, 2020 and on March 23 came stay-at-home orders [
]. Following these events, the Portland Police Bureau recorded a 22% increase in arrests related to DV compared to prior weeks [
- Brown K.
Executive order no. 20-12.
Governor Oot, State of Oregon2020
]. In San Antonio, Texas schools closed March 20, 2020 and stay-at-home orders came March 24 [
- Portland Police Bureau
Trends analysis: pre and post school closures.
]. The San Antonio Police Department subsequently noted they received an 18% increase in calls pertaining to family violence in March 2020 compared to March 2019 [
- Management CoSAOoE
City of San Antonio and Bexar County announce stay home, work safe orders.
Department of Government and Public Affairs, 2020
]. In Jefferson County Alabama, the Sheriff's Office reported a 27% increase in DV calls during March 2020 compared to March 2019 [
- Management CoSAOoE
Social distancing doesn’t mean safety distancing.
Department of Government and Public Affairs, 2020
]. In New York City schools closed March 16, 2020 and stay-at-home orders started on March 22, 2020 [
- Money J.
Jefferson County experiencing increase in domestic violence crimes during Covid-19 pandemic.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, 2020
]. During the month of March, the New York City Police Department responded to a 10% increase in DV reports compared to March 2019 [
- Cuomo A.
New York State on pause executive order.
Office of The Governor, Albany, NY2020
] [Fig. 1A & B].
- New York City Police Department
Domestic violence reports.
New York City Police Department, 2020
Reports of shootings in Philadelphia have increased since the state enacted its stay-at-home orders on April 01, 2020 [
]. According to data published by the City of Philadelphia, the number of shooting victims has increased approximately 7% during the period of April 01, 2020 to April 15, 2020 compared to the same time last year [
- Wolf T.
Order of the governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for individuals to stay at home.
in: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 2020
Shooting victims. City of Philadelphia.
This cursory analysis illustrates that stay-at-home orders may create a worst-case scenario for individuals suffering from DV and demonstrates a need for further research. With the apparent rise in DV reports, there is a need for more current and standardized modalities of reporting actionable DV data. First responders, physicians and other healthcare personal need to be made aware of the potential for increased DV during the COVID-19 pandemic so they can respond appropriately. Steps could also be taken on an administrative level to make IPV screening tools more readily available in clinical settings and media outlets should be utilized to raise awareness. Social media should also be leveraged while stay-at-home orders are in place to reach a wider audience and provide support. Overall, it is vital that health care providers do not lose sight of the increased potential for violence while fighting this global pandemic since they may be the first point of contact for survivors.
Declaration of competing interest
Authors declare no competing interests.
- Cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the U.S.U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.htmlDate accessed: April 18, 2020
- Covid-19 — the law and limits of quarantine.N Engl J Med. 2020; 382: e28
- Governor EOoT State of Florida Office of the Governor Executive Order Number 20-91 (essential services and activities during COVID-19 emergency). State of Florida, 2020
- Labor force statistics from the current population survey.2020 ([Accessed April 18, 2020])
- The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence.Lancet. 2020; 395: 912-920https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
- Domestic violence.in: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island (FL)2020
- The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2015 data brief–updated release.2018
- Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on violence against women and girls.Development UAftDoI, 2020
- COVID-19 and ending violence against women and girls.2020
- Executive order no. 20-12.Governor Oot, State of Oregon2020
- Trends analysis: pre and post school closures.2020
- City of San Antonio and Bexar County announce stay home, work safe orders.Department of Government and Public Affairs, 2020https://www.sanantonio.gov/gpa/News/ArtMID/24373/ArticleID/18651/City-of-San-Antonio-and-Bexar-County-announce-Stay-Home-Work-Safe-Orders([Accessed 2020])
- Social distancing doesn’t mean safety distancing.Department of Government and Public Affairs, 2020[Accessed 2020])
- Jefferson County experiencing increase in domestic violence crimes during Covid-19 pandemic.Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, 2020[Accessed])
- New York State on pause executive order.Office of The Governor, Albany, NY2020
- Domestic violence reports.New York City Police Department, 2020[Accessed])
- Order of the governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for individuals to stay at home.in: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 2020
- Shooting victims. City of Philadelphia.[Accessed 2020])
Published online: April 28, 2020
Accepted: April 23, 2020
Received: April 20, 2020
© 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.