Written by: Blake Hansher

In our high-school program, Go for the Gold, one of our key topics is abuse, including both intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic violence (DV) of four different types: verbal, emotional, physical, sexual. The statistic is given that 1 in 10 high school students has been purposely hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. We also add that 1 in 5 teens reports knowing someone who has been a victim of physical abuse. With the knowledge of these statistics, students can conclude that abuse is a growing problem.

In 2020, the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic mandated families to stay at home under quarantine orders. Not all individuals stayed with their families; some were with friends, others moved in with partners or their families. Regardless of the living situation, the toll on the psychological health of the public during COVID was felt by all. A study (1) on the effects of quarantine on hospital staff found that most quarantined staff returned to work with symptoms of acute stress disorder, with staff more likely to report exhaustion, detachment from others, anxiety when dealing with febrile patients, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration and indecisiveness, deteriorating work performance, and reluctance to work or consideration of resignation. Another study (2) comparing post-traumatic stress symptoms in parents and children quarantined with those not quarantined found that the mean post-traumatic stress scores were four times higher in children who had been quarantined than in those who were not quarantined. These observed symptoms may explain certain trends we are experiencing now, including the dramatic need for a workforce due to reluctance to return back to full-time employment.

With such a negative psychological impact, it stands to reason that IPV/DV numbers would increase, and studies show that they have. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men report experiencing some form of IPV each year (3) . However, since COVID, globally, numbers have risen. “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. The organization also reports a 30% increase in helpline calls in Cyprus and 33% increase in Singapore.” (4) This is a disturbing upward trend in domestic violence, likely due to the stressors of quarantine.

Data in the U.S. has been hard to come by, but we can deduce a similar upward trend in DV by examining police reports. “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. In San Antonio, Texas schools closed March 20, 2020 and stay-at-home orders came March 24. 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. In Jefferson County Alabama, the Sheriff’s Office reported a 27% in-crease in DV calls during March 2020 compared to March 2019. In New York City, schools closed March 16, 2020 and stay-at-home orders started on March 22, 2020. During the month of March, the New York City Police Department responded to a 10% increase in DV reports compared to March 2019.” (4) Even in the first month of quarantine distress calls due to domestic violence increased dramatically. And the quarantine lasted nearly a year, while its effects are still being felt in our homes, workplaces, and even places of worship.

In response to this, we must be diligent in identifying signs of abuse so that we can protect those around us. Our information isn’t just for our students – it’s for everyone. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you need help, find a trusted adult, someone who can advocate for you and get you the assistance you need. This includes adult peers, coaches, teachers, counselors, mentors, faith leaders, and of course, parent/guardians. There are also several other resources you can go to for more information or additional assistance. They are:
– National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline – 1-866-331-9474
www.loveisrespect.org, or www.chooserespect.org
Seek help immediately. We have heard many reasons as to why people stay: they think it’s their fault; they are embarrassed; they feel trapped and don’t see a way out. There are resources and people who want to support you. Don’t excuse it: Violence is of any kind is NOT a part of a healthy relationship. It’s not your fault. You deserve so much more. You are worth it, and the right person will recognize and respect your value.

1 Bai, Y., Lin, C. C., Lin, C. Y., Chen, J. Y., Chue, C. M., & Chou, P. (2004). Survey of stress reactions among health
care workers involved with the SARS outbreak. Psychiatric services, 55(9), 1055-1057.
2 Sprang, G., & Silman, M. (2013). Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents and youth after health-related
disasters. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness, 7(1), 105-110.
3 Smith, S. G., Zhang, X., Basile, K. C., Merrick, M. T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M. J., & Chen, J. (2018). The national
intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2015 data brief–updated release.
4 Boserup, B., McKenney, M., & Elkbuli, A. (2020). Alarming trends in US domestic violence
during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 38(12),
2753–2755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajem.2020.04.077