Report: 8% increase in US domestic violence incidents after stay-at-home orders

The report’s authors say that the evidence is strong, but the exact reasoning for the spike is less clear


By Suzie Ziegler 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Domestic violence incidents in the U.S. increased by 8.1% after pandemic-related stay-at-home orders were put in place, according to a new report released Wednesday by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice. 

The analysis looks at the number of domestic violence incidents before and after government jurisdictions began issuing stay-at-home orders, according to the release. The data comes from police logs, emergency hotline registries and health records across 18 different studies. 

The authors say the evidence for the increase is clear, but the exact reasonings behind the spike is less certain, according to the report. Possible contributing factors are increased unemployment, stress associated with childcare, increased financial insecurity and using alcohol or other substances as a coping strategy. 

The authors also noted that the isolation separated potential victims from their network of friends, neighbors, teachers or other people capable of reporting signs of abuse.

[PODCAST: Evolving police response to domestic violence calls]

“Our analysis confirms the initial fears we had at the outset of the pandemic,” said Alex R. Piquero, chair of the University of Miami Department of Sociology and the report’s lead author, in a statement. “While further research is needed to help us better understand the web of factors underlying this rise in domestic violence, our findings demonstrate that the pandemic’s isolating impacts increased risk for potential victims.”  

“The pandemic has thrown many of the most vulnerable people in our society into especially challenging circumstances, so these findings should not surprise us,” said Thomas Abt, director of the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, in a statement. “Policymakers and researchers should work to further understand the impacts of the pandemic and provide additional resources for domestic abuse prevention and victim services, particularly to those who are most isolated and at risk.”

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