According to a survey by NBC News, domestic violence calls to Houston police rose 20 percent in March 2020 compared to the month prior, just as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began causing many people to start sheltering in place and avoid leaving their homes.
Reporters said increases in domestic violence calls occurred in many other cities throughout the United States as well. Houston was 1 of 22 cities who responded to media inquiries about call levels, and it was 1 of 18 cities that reported a rise in domestic violence calls.
Houston PD received 300 more domestic violence calls in March than in February. If you do the math, it means that police received 1,500 calls about domestic violence in February, followed by 1,800 such calls in March.
NBC News said such increases across the country, while preliminary, “appear to support what many experts expected to happen: As city and state leaders ordered people to stay home to ward off COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, domestic abuse would become more prevalent.”
Social isolation raises concerns about domestic assault and family violence
The report said police and victims rights advocates attribute this increase to the stress of schools and businesses closing, which has resulted in many persons being unemployed and facing financial problems.
But isolation by sheltering in place also raises safety issues.
“Similar increases in domestic violence have been documented after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” NBC News reported. It said the increase in calls raises “concerns about families’ safety as they isolate at home.”
Forbes has also reported:
“Studies have shown that natural disasters and extreme financial distress, such as a recession, correlate with higher rates of interpersonal violence and abuse.”
Forbes said that since March 16, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has received 2,345 calls in which COVID-19 was cited as a condition of such abuse.
In addition, Forbes reported that shelter-in-place restrictions around the nation have caused many typical resources for victims to be inaccessible.
“Shelters may be closing or limiting their intake; law enforcement may be unable to respond quickly (or at all); in-person counseling sessions are no longer available; and, above all, there is little someone can do to physically escape their abuser,” Forbes wrote.
Similarly, USA Today reported that experts consider domestic violence to be about power and control:
“In a pandemic, many people feel as though they’re losing control and search for healthy ways to cope. But when an abuser feels powerless, it puts their victim at risk.”
One expert said some abusers may use the COVID-19 outbreak to exert more such control, by limiting their partner’s activities even more.
In addition, couples who already were experiencing friction in their relationship can have it heated to a higher level by being unable to avoid each other. That may have been a factor in the arrest of Bryshere Gray, an actor on the 2015-2020 Fox TV series “Empire,” who was taken into custody by Arizona police after the actor’s wife placed a 911 call reporting a domestic assault.
Not all domestic violence claims are factual
While domestic violence is a serious problem, it’s also worth noting that at any time — with or without a pandemic — not all calls to police about domestic violence or domestic assault may be based on fact. False claims of domestic violence can occur. In fact, studies show that perhaps up to 10 percent of domestic violence calls may be false.
Anyone who is charged with a domestic violence crime deserves to have his or her legal rights protected. And those rights can be protected by a skilled domestic violence defense lawyer. For persons in Houston and all of Harris County, Sugar Land and all of Fort Bend County, The Woodlands/Conroe and all of Montgomery County — where police departments and courthouses remain open — it’s vital you contact an experienced defense attorney immediately.
If you live in these areas and face a charge of domestic abuse, domestic violence, domestic assault or family violence, notify the Neal Davis Law Firm today. We will provide you a confidential legal review of your case.
Contact us today, and let’s get started protecting your legal rights during the COVID-19 crisis.
And if you’re the victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or local law enforcement officers.