Since the statewide “stay at home” mandate was issued during the week of March 23rd to combat the spread of COVID-19, there has been a disturbing negative trend unrelated to the physical spread of the virus: a significant increase in the instances of domestic violence in our community.
This is not unexpected. Historically, during times of national or community crises, reports of domestic violence increase. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, reports of domestic violence in the Gulf area increased by 13% overall. In New Orleans and Lafayette, two of the largest communities affected by the spill, reports of domestic violence increased by 81% and 116%, respectively. During Hurricane Katrina, domestic assaults against women doubled.
Unfortunately, in the midst of this pandemic, increasing incidents of domestic violence is a frightening world-wide trend. UN Secretary-General António Guterres raised concerns in early April about the sharp rise in domestic violence occurring globally, (by as much as 100% in some countries) as “lockdowns” and other restrictive measures have been implemented to enforce social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guterres urged governments to implement mechanisms to prevent violence against women as a key part of their national pandemic response plans.
Guterres warned that “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes. Lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19, but they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the past weeks, as the economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying surge in domestic violence.”
Domestic violence takes many forms. Physical violence and sexual assault are the most obvious. However, verbal abuse and psychological abuse (intimidation and humiliation) are forms of domestic violence too. Domestic violence is not the same in every relationship. Although stress and alcohol/drug abuse do not cause domestic violence, these factors can make the situation much worse for women in abusive relationships, as well as for their children.
Tragically, in ‘Ewa Beach in late March, a 23-year-old woman and her six-month old son were murdered, both victims of domestic violence. Like COVID-19, domestic violence does not discriminate. It affects households of every ethnicity, culture and socio-economic class. Domestic violence is a crime.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, help is still available. Shelters and agencies serving victims remain open despite the coronavirus pandemic and the stay at home mandate. The Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) encourages people to reach out to known or suspected victims and check-in on them to see if they need help and to direct them to DVAC (see below). Friends and family of victims can help by working out a “code word,” special photo or other signal that can serve as a confidential call for help.
Domestic Violence Help and Resources
800-690-6200 (Toll-free for Neighbor Islands and Out-of-State)
Or go to the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) at:
A Live Chat is available on the bottom right of the website homepage. Just click on the icon.
A list of Hawai‘i providers by county is available at the Hawaiʻi State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s “Get Help” web page at:
NOTE: DVAC encourages victims seeking help from domestic violence support providers to erase search histories or message threads from their smartphones or computers to protect themselves from abusers who may be checking those devices.