There’s a relatively new conversation about domestic violence during COVID-19. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), the coronavirus “has had a unique impact on victims of domestic violence and by extension, the work we all do to address domestic violence.”
Agencies across the nation have noticed the uptick in domestic violence during COVID-19. The pandemic added a several stressors to households, like the loss of income and the inability to pay for housing and food. All of these things “exacerbated the often silent epidemic of intimate partner violence.”
As schools shut down and stay-at-home orders took effect in March of 2020, domestic violence during COVID-19 increased by 27% in Alabama and 22% in Oregon.
As a result, one domestic violence shelter has seen an increased need for relocation.
“My one client’s abusive husband has used this as an opportunity to further control and isolate his wife and kids, refusing to let them leave the house under any circumstances. In addition, he is quarantined with them, leading to more exposure to abuse. Among multiple families there is increasing, escalating tension. We are also anticipating a heightened need for families to flee to our shelter.”
Helping domestic violence victims during COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers advice on what to do if you suspect a resident is a victim of domestic violence during COVID-19 or any other time.
“Often, the best way to help a victim of domestic violence isn’t through direct intervention–which can be dangerous for everyone involved.”
However, there are things you can do to help domestic violence victims.
- Ask if they’re safe or need to talk to someone.
- Explain that free, confidential help is available to help for victims and their children at local domestic violence programs.
- Offer a ride to a local shelter, a place to make a phone call or baby-sit while they attend appointments.
- Carry the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), in your wallet in case you meet someone who needs it.
- If you see abuse and suspect someone is in immediate danger of being harmed, call the police.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) expanded housing protections for survivors of violence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2016. The final rule included:
- Continuation of the core protections
- Emergency transfers
- Protections against the adverse effects of abuse
- Low-barrier certification process
While we have a “new normal,” VAWA protections remain the same with domestic violence during COVID-19. In addition, the National Housing Law Project released “Tenant Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors During COVID-19.” The main points are listed below.
- You cannot evict survivors because of violence committed against them
- VAWA housing protections still apply for tenants in and applicants for federal housing programs
- Survivors can assert VAWA and housing rights during COVID-19. Other rights may include local and state protections.
As a housing provider, you should contact your attorney, of course, for legal advice on domestic violence during COVID-19.
Read our other posts about VAWA.