One unexpected and unfortunate result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the rise in attention given to its affect on domestic violence rates, which have increased since the pandemic’s onset. Specifically, “Results show moderate to strong increase in domestic violence incidents between pre- and post-lockdown periods” (Piquero et al., 2021, p. 1).
In addition to a rise in rates, a new form of domestic violence is being newly defined in public squares: economic (or financial) abuse. This type of abuse has been tentatively defined as “a deliberate pattern of control in which individuals interfere with their partner’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources” (Postmus et al., 2020, para. 6). In other words, economic abuse is characterized by prevention of access to resources, thus creating a scenario of dependence upon another.
Treating Domestic Abusers
Some trends surrounding domestic violence are positive, however. For example, novel treatment methods are emerging that use virtual reality to place domestic violence offenders in victims’ roles. Through the lens of virtual reality, offenders will ‘see’ themselves as their victims. According to research, these modalities increase offender empathy and help them better recognize non-verbal cues of distress (Seinfeld et al., 2018).
Changing Public Opinion about Domestic Abuse
Changing domestic violence outcomes often requires altered approaches by practitioners, care-givers, counselors, family, friends, and public entities. These varied approaches can include forming non-judgmental relationships with victims rather than expecting immediate adherence to rigid suggestions that recommend victims “leave abusers now or stop complaining.” These relationships can de-pressurize stressful situations and provide support should the victim eventually choose to leave the abuser. Additionally, victims would greatly benefit from society asking the correct questions regarding domestic violence. For example,
Instead of asking this...
Why didn’t the victim leave?
What makes it so difficult to leave?
What makes offenders commit domestic violence?
What factors make victims feel they have to stay?
How can we better support victims?
Victims of domestic violence may be thinking of leaving an abusive relationship; however, they do not have to leave today or do it all at once. Having a plan in place can greatly aid victims should they decide to leave later. For help creating a plan, see this website. Additionally, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 1–800–799-SAFE (7233) or via chat at their website.
Piquero, A. R., Jennings, W. G., Jemison, E., Kaukinen, C., & Knaul, F. M. (2021). Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis: Domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Criminal Justice, 101806. https://https:doi.org/10.1016/j.crimjus.2021.101806
Postmus, J. L., Hoge, G. L., Breckenridge, J., Sharp-Jeffs, N., & Chung, D. (2020). Economic abuse as an invisible form of domestic violence: A multicountry review. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 21(2), 261-283. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1524838018764160
Seinfeld, S., Arroyo-Palacios, J., Iruretagoyena, G., Hortensius, R., Zapata, L. E., Borland, D., ... & Sanchez-Vives, M. V. (2018). Offenders become the victim in virtual reality: impact of changing perspective in domestic violence. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-19987-7