Since the global COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States in December of 2019, New York became one, among many, of the U.S. states to go under lockdown and restrict its residents to stay-at-home orders. Not only has the pandemic altered everyone’s daily lives for months on end, but it has also caused a surge of numerous crises in New York as well as worldwide; sick patients, job losses, and poverty. However, one of the most life-threatening and hidden crises in the state and globally is the surge of domestic abuse cases.
For those unaware, domestic abuse has been a significant crisis dating back centuries. According to the Journal of Women’s History, before the 1970s, domestic abuse was looked at by authorities as inconsequential. Many components caused this form of violence to be made a mockery of. For example, popular culture and the media joked at the thought of wife-beating.
Even professionals of the human mind, such as psychiatrists, heavily downgraded the consequential impacts that domestic abuse can have on an individual. So, imagine how hazardous it was to live in a society in which one was unsafe and unprotected from such abuse. Wouldn’t one think that, in the 21st century, our society would move past this intolerable behavior? Unfortunately, domestic abuse is still a rampant issue, and those abused simply cannot seem to escape their miserable lifestyles due to a broken system.
Since the pandemic began, New York has seen a surge of domestic abuse cases. One may ask, why is there a surge of new cases? Well, the answer is quite simple. Now more than ever before, victims are trapped in their homes with their abusers, most likely 24/7 during the quarantine. Those victims who previously had an escape route from their abusers for part of the day, such as during work hours, now that potential safe-haven is no longer a viable option.
Moreover, it has become increasingly difficult for victims to sneakily seek help, as they are constantly around their abusers. As stated by ABC7 NY’s Eyewitness News on May 4, 2020, there was no option to text 911, which exacerbated the problem for victims attempting to covertly seek assistance. It’s unlikely that victims can simply call the police department without being noticed by their abusers.
At a City Council public hearing in early May, Donovan Richards, the Public Safety Chair of Queens, stated that he is “concerned about domestic violence being under-reported,” adding that he wants “to make sure victims can reach for help.” According to ABC7 NY’s Eyewitness News, the NYPD had only reported 2,157 domestic abuse arrests between March and April 2020, compared to the 3,822 arrests made in the month before the stay-at-home order was instituted, a 43% decrease in arrests. “This is all the more chilling because we know that domestic violence during a crisis is more severe and more likely to result in death,” asserted Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Council member and Chair of the Women and Gender Equity Committee.
As of June 2nd, New York City finally activated the long-awaited 911 text-messaging system. The next step is to develop a campaign to publicize this system in the hopes of combatting domestic abuse and saving lives.
The following resources are available to domestic abuse victims:
Text-message or call 9-1-1
1-800-942-6906 to reach New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline
800-621-HOPE (4673) to reach New York City’s Domestic Abuse Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE to reach The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Text LOVEIS to 22522 to reach LoveIsRespect, text-message helpline as part of The National Domestic Violence Hotline