In The “Shadow Pandemic”: Why is the Issue of Domestic Violence Against Women Actually Surging?

“You shouldn’t have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh.”

-Pat Benatar

What is Domestic Violence, and Who Does it Affect Most?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Forms of domestic violence include physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse (National Domestic Violence Hotline).

1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

About 20 people per minute are physically abused by a partner in the United States (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). There is domestic violence across all socio-economic classes, but domestic violence is more prevalent against those in poverty (Ooms).

National Conference on Violence Against Women

The Historical Power Struggle in the Patriarchy

When the colonists settled in America, they adopted much of the old English common law, so wife-beating was legally allowed in the 1600s. The English tradition allowed the ‘correction’ of wives to keep them in order when they were disobedient (Bloch). In the 1640s, American efforts to prevent domestic violence began in New England (Pleck). They passed the first laws to punish abusers due to the Puritan values of order based on religion. Although these regulations were set to protect female victims, they did not challenge the root cause of the powerful patriarchy but rather focused on regulating it. However, people believed states should not get involved in domestic matters and frowned upon the invasion of privacy (Pleck). Few sentences besides a fine against violent husbands were instated unless wives had died or were severely injured from the abuse (Bloch).

The Temperance Movement

The 19th century was the origin of the Temperance Movement regarding the consumption of alcohol. The places with the highest rates of domestic violence were also states with high alcohol consumption. Since societal gender norms encouraged female subordination, men used their physical strength to control their wives, and this was only exacerbated by increasing alcoholism. If a woman decided to leave her marriage, she would often suffer economically and emotionally, which kept many women in abusive relationships. The first-wave feminist movement pushed for legal protections due to this issue (“Drunkard Attacks Wife”).

The Bottle, a book published in London in 1847, influenced the Temperance Movement in America with its explicit depiction of the familial effects of alcoholism.

Thurman v. City of Torrington (CT)

In 1985, Tracy Thurman’s ex-husband Charles “Buck” Thurman harassed her constantly after they split. Buck verbally and physically assaulted Tracy multiple times with police never interfering after being called, even after Buck violated a restraining order. In 1983, Buck stabbed Tracy over 20 times while a police officer watched. Although the officer finally confiscated the knife, Buck continued to kick Tracy, break her neck, and grab their son from inside of the house to throw on her unconscious body. Over 40 minutes after the police were called, Buck was finally arrested, and Tracy was loaded into an ambulance (“Thurman v. City of Torrington, 595 F. Supp. 1521 (D. Conn. 1984)”). Tracy sued and became the first woman to sue a city and police department for ignoring the violence because she was married to the abuser. She won, and the Family Violence Prevention and Response Act (“Thurman Law”) became instituted in Connecticut. This law made domestic violence an automatically arrestable offense, even if the victim did not press charges (“Thurman v. City of Torrington”).

The Current State of the Issue and Potential Solutions

Due to pre-existing sexism and societal gender roles, as well as the combination of expanding external stress and lack of opportunities to release aggression, women face higher vulnerability and risk of being recipients of intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence cases increased by 8.1% after lockdown orders.

the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice

The pandemic has trapped women in their homes with their abusers; they are isolated from helpful public resources. With the combination of psychological and financial stressors, female victims of intimate partner violence are subject to difficult conditions, with many fearing for their lives daily.

Getty Images

Strict Enforcement of Protection Orders

The Problem: Many women do not report their situations for a plethora of reasons (children, finances, shame, fear of retaliation, etc.), and protection orders can be violated and have extremely harmful consequences, as seen in Thurman v. City of Torrington.

The Solution: Protection orders have been shown to be an effective tool, so law enforcement must take domestic violence cases seriously and provide adequate consequences to those who violate orders. To encourage more victims to come forward to protect themselves, it is imperative to show strong support and concrete action to help those affected through law protection.

The Evidence: The CDC reports that “women with permanent protection orders experienced an eighty percent reduction in physical abuse during the follow-up period (compared to women with no PO), and an average of forty percent of POs are violated” (Niolon et al).

Safe and Affordable Housing Programs

The Problem: Domestic violence is the direct cause of homelessness for over 1/2 of homeless women in America, and 38% of domestic violence victims will be homeless at some point in their lifetime (Family and Youth Services Bureau).

The Solution: Stable housing programs have shown positive outcomes across the country and should be instituted in all states as a more permanent solution to solely implementing shelters.

The Evidence: Washington State’s Housing First Program, an initiative that connects survivors to advocacy services and financial assistance to aid in finding permanent housing for survivors, resulted in 96% of participants stably housed after 18 months. Additionally, 84% of women involved in the program reported an increase in physical safety for themselves and their children (Lyungai).

YWCA Housing Program for Domestic Violence Victims in Central Alabama

Universal Consent Training

The Problem: One major stressor that leads to domestic violence is disadvantaged neighborhoods and poor community factors; in fact, living in a disadvantaged neighborhood can put one at a greater risk for domestic violence and may lead perpetrators to believe consequences and police intervention are less likely (Niess-May).

The Solution: Healthy relationship education and universal consent training has proven to have a high rate of effectiveness in preventing intimate partner violence. It is important to teach children from a young age why violence is bad to break the cycle of domestic abuse since children learn behavior from their older examples.

The Evidence: Many studies have confirmed the positive results of school programming, stating that this education “promotes healthy relationships and respectful boundaries, and reduces tolerance for violence among students . . . and school personnel can play an important role in reducing rates of Teen Domestic Violence perpetration” (Niolon et al).

What Can We Do?

  • educate yourself about abusive relationships and signs of aggression
  • support those who confide in you, and become a resource for others through compassion, patience, respect, and safety knowledge
  • raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence in your community by donating, fundraising, and volunteering at domestic violence organizations, victim programs, and shelters
October 1st marks the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month where we honor those who have lost their lives to domestic violence

Thank you so much for visiting my webpage! I would love to hear from you, so please leave me questions, comments, and feedback. I encourage you to think about the following:

  1. Were you aware of the prevalence of domestic violence in society?
  2. Can you think of any other solutions to this issue?
  3. How can you make a difference and help those affected by domestic violence?
17 Comments

17 comments

  1. Donaji_340

    This was so informative thank you! I learned a lot more about how prevalent domestic violence is in our society and how that has worsened because of the pandemic. I think you did a great job of offering solutions to multiple issues, and I think education is definitely an important action that anyone can do. I know that One Love is a great organization that teaches about healthy relationships, what are other organizations and resources that we can find to learn more?

  2. Donaji_340

    This was very informative, thank you! I learned a lot more about domestic violence and how prevalent it is in our society, along with how it has increased due to the pandemic. I think that education is definitely a very important action that anyone can do, and I know that One Love is a great organization that teaches about healthy relationships, what are other organizations or resources we can look at to become more educated on this topic?

  3. Mary_502

    This is really interesting! I like how you included the historical background of this issue as well as providing very troubling yet informative statistics. I also would not have thought about this issue worsening during the pandemic but it makes sense when you think about it because they are stuck in their situation without normal access to resources. It seems like this issue is as important as ever and you did a great job of educating readers on it!

    1. Anika

      Hi Mary- thank you for checking out my project! Yes, the pandemic has definitely exacerbated domestic violence cases. I encourage you to find out how domestic violence has changed in your community during quarantine.

  4. Sophia_64

    Hi Anika, great project! The explanation of the historical timeline of this issue from the beginning of colonial America to the present was very effective since even though I was aware of the current prevalence of domestic violence in society, I was not as familiar with its historical background. Also, your solutions are super well researched and explained! I think that as high schoolers, focusing on consent training and learning about healthy relationships is extremely important and we should all look within our own schools to address how we are learning or not learning about this issue.

    1. Anika

      Hi Sophia- thank you for checking out my project! It is unfortunate that domestic violence has existed in our society since the colonial era. I am glad you agree with the importance of consent training, and I encourage you to continue to think about how we can help on a micro level in our communities.

  5. Avatar

    Hey Anika!
    I love your project and I think it’s so important that you have tackled such a pressing matter! I really liked seeing the statistics you used at the top of your page, and I was shocked that domestic violence rates have increased by 8% because of the lockdown, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Really good work!

    1. Anika

      Hi Alaina- thank you for checking out my project! I completely agree with how shocking and disappointing it is to view those statistics. I encourage you to look within your own community to see how you can help with the issue of domestic violence, especially amidst the pandemic.

  6. Emma_513

    Hi Anika, great job with your project! l liked how you included some history behind this issue and also how you put the quote above your video. It is super powerful and sets the tone for your project, and the statistics that you included do the same.

    1. Anika

      Hi Emma- thank you for checking out my project! Thank you for your feedback, and I encourage you to look within your own community to see how domestic violence cases against women have changed.

  7. Emmi_203

    Hi Anika!
    I really enjoyed your project, I had heard a little about this issue but this totally opened my eyes! It is clear you are very passionate about this issue and it is shown through all of the research you did. This is definitely a super important topic and its great that you’re working to shed light on it, great job!

    1. Anika

      Hi Emmi- thank you for checking out my project; I am so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for your feedback, and I encourage you to look within your own community to see how common domestic violence is and how you can help.

  8. Avatar

    Hi Anika!
    Your project was really interesting and I think your website did a great job in explaining the depth of your topic. I was aware of the severity of the state of domestic abuse, but your website definitely expanded my knowledge. I liked your explanation of what we can do to fix the state of domestic abuse as individuals and what our government can do!

    1. Anika

      Hi Ron- thank you for checking out my project! I am glad you were already aware of the issue, and I hope you continue to look within your community to see how you can help. Thanks for your feedback!

  9. Anneliese

    Hey Anika, your project was super interesting and well-done! While I was aware that there was an issue surrounding domestic violence in America, I was honestly shocked to learn how widespread the problem is from your presentation. More specifically, I found the fact that there are approximately 20,000 calls to the domestic abuse hotline daily to be quite disturbing. Overall, I think you did a great job of connecting two issues, domestic abuse and the global COVID-19 pandemic, to curate a super informative project. To answer your second question, I think the implementation of permanent protection laws for victims of domestic abuse would be a great way to help, but I also believe that changes to the criminal justice system should be placed in order for victims to be taken more seriously in cases of domestic abuse.

    1. Anika

      Hi Anneliese- thank you for checking out my project! I am so glad you researched more after viewing my project. I definitely agree with your point about the implementation of permanent protection laws for victims. It is always difficult for women to win cases against their abusers, so I also agree with your point about change to the criminal justice system. Thank you for your feedback and thoughtful response!

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