As a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia and Montgomery county, I have represented many people charged with domestic violence. These charges can include simple assault, aggravated assault, strangulation, and violation of a PFA (Protection from Abuse Order). I have also represented those who are victims of domestic violence and have filed a PFA against a spouse, partner or other family member. Many of these cases begin with a night of too much drinking or drug use. Others start with a fight after an intimate partner catches the other cheating when going through their cell phone.
Since the stay-at-home orders resulting from the coronovirus pandemic, there has been an increase in domestic violence allegations. This trend is clear locally as well as internationally. A Montgomery county man was arrested for first-degree murder after he allegedly strangled his wife with an extension cord. The New York Times focused on the global trend around domestic abuse since people’s movements have been restricted.
Stay-at-Home Orders Lead to Increased Domestic Abuse
While crime rates have dropped in most major cities, including Philadelphia during the coronavirus outbreak, the same cannot be said for domestic abuse. There are a number of factors that have contributed to the increase in domestic assault since the coronavirus pandemic:
- Stay-at-Home orders restrict the movement of those already in an abusive relationship.
- Abusers may feel a sense of power knowing it is less likely police will respond to a domestic abuse call.
- Partners don’t have the same ability to leave the home to “blow off steam” after an argument.
- Husband and wife living in a small home don’t have the ability to find their own space.
- The financial strain on the household has created increased stress on everyone.
- Around-the-clock child care responsibility is increasing stress for partners.
- More time spent with your boyfriend/girlfriend lends itself to more opportunities to argue.
- Stress and anxiety about the future leads all parties to have a shorter fuse.
- With bars closed, people are drinking more at home, which can result in increased violence.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it is easy to see how stay-at-home orders can lead to an increase in domestic violence. The conditions put in place due to the coronavirus are new for all of us and we are trying to adapt. Many see this as an opportunity to spend more time with their children and spouse. And, friends are finding new and creative ways to entertain themselves while practicing social distancing. But being forced to remain in close proximity with the same people over a long period of time can lead to a violent situation.
Increased Stress over Pandemic has Lead to More Domestic Violence
This extended time together can be destructive. And if you were already in a rocky relationship where there was verbal or even physical abuse, the coronavirus pandemic has likely led to an increase in the fighting and abuse. Even the best relationships have additional strain on them as a result of the pandemic. The worry over how to pay for food, make sure elder parents are healthy, take care of kids, and keep yourself healthy has resulted in increased stress for everyone. When people are more stressed and they cannot get personal space, they are more likely to lash out at those closest to them. All of us are feeling that stress. It is no excuse to put your hands on your domestic partner but it explains the correlation between COVID-19 and a rise in domestic violence.
Can We Reduce Domestic Violence During Coronavirus?
This increase in domestic violence during the pandemic is a concern. There is already a strain on our healthcare system. We do not want otherwise healthy people going to the hospital due to an assault at the hands of their partner. Are there steps we can take to reduce domestic violence while we are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic? I believe we should consider some of the following:
- Don’t initiate a fight. If neither party starts an argument, there won’t be any.
- If a verbal dispute occurs, be the bigger person and walk away, even if that means to a different room.
- If an argument ensues, go for a short walk around the block. You can practice social distancing while still getting out of the house. Wear a mask if you have one.
- Try to work on problems collectively rather than attack the other person. If you are stressed about the bills, try to come up with a solution together.
- Find time to enjoy each other’s company or time together as a family.
- Call a friend and talk about your frustrations. You may not be able to meet at the bar but our phones still work.
- Before you assault your partner, think about the unsanitary conditions inside a prison cell. This is no time to be in prison as the virus is spreading even more rapidly there.
- While you may use alcohol as an escape, try to be mindful of how much you are drinking. You do not want to do something you regret.
Philadelphia and Montgomery County Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you have been assaulted or you fear for your safety, call 911 or go to the courthouse to file for a Protection from Abuse Order. If you have been charged with assault or strangulation stemming from a domestic incident, please contact me for a free consultation. I have represented countless individuals who have been accused of domestic assault. These cases are often very defendable as neither party has clean hands.