Domestic Violence Reports Have Dropped in New York City Amid COVID-19

Supermajority Education Fund

April 23, 2020

Police precincts in New York City are reporting a drop in domestic violence-related police reports and 911 calls since shelter at home orders were put in place, the New York Times reports. In the borough of Queens, the NYPD reports domestic violence calls have dropped 40 percent in recent weeks, and overall reports in the city have fallen 15 percent compared to March 2019. 

Officials warn, however, that the drop in reports doesn’t necessarily mean domestic violence-related incidents have decreased, but that domestic violence victims are likely less able to seek help because they are isolated with their abusers and have few options when it comes to seeking shelter elsewhere.

To stop the spread of the virus, New York City has suspended in-home visits by social workers, which means that at-risk families lost a crucial point of contact when it comes to asking for help. Many victims are also likely unable to use their phones safely while isolating with a violent partner, and with community centers, nonprofits, and schools closed, those experiencing domestic violence don’t have the opportunity to see people who may be able to assist over the course of the day. “The problem we think [domestic violence victims] are having is how to notify us,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz told the New York Times

Deborah J. Vagins, the President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) told Supermajority News thatit is entirely possible that many survivors are unable to safely reach out for help to a hotline or a local resource, or make a police report, right now.” 

Amid these conditions, secure, online reporting tools could play a key role in getting domestic violence survivors the resources they need. According to Vagins, NNEDV’s WomensLaw Email Hotline has seen a dramatic increase in messages from people seeking emotional support, legal information, and referrals in recent weeks. The number of coronavirus-related inquiries sent to the email hotline has tripled in April from March.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase incidences of domestic violence in the United States, as it already has in other countries,” Vagins said, referencing the fact that domestic violence has become more frequent worldwide since other countries have instituted shutdowns and forced isolation due to the pandemic. While reliable nationwide data is not yet available, “domestic violence will continue, and even escalate, if abusive partners choose to take advantage of stressful situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, to gain more control and to keep survivors from accessing resources and support,” she said.

 “We know that resources are strained,” Vagins concluded, “but survivors should know that they are not alone and services are still available to help.”