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Incidents of domestic violence skyrocked amid COVID-19 quarantine. Photo: DLA Piper

Fighting domestic violence in the era of COVID-19 now has $200 million in support

The funds, which were announced on Monday, May 24, come out of the American Rescue Plan Act.

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On Monday, May 24, the Biden administration announced it will be allocating $200 million from the American Rescue Plan to support services for survivors of domestic violence, following a concerning increase during the pandemic. 

Incidents of domestic violence rose in the United States by about 8.1% after pandemic-related lockdowns began, according to researchers at the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice

The analysis, which was released on Wednesday, May 18, was based on an examination of 18 U.S. and international studies comparing domestic violence incidents before and after stay-at-home restrictions were put in place last March. 

These studies consisted of a wide range of data sources, including crime reports, emergency hotline registries, health records, and police call logs.  

Alex Piquero, lead author of the analysis, and chair of the University of Miami’s Sociology Department, told CNN that he and his team found substantial evidence of a major leap in domestic violence, regardless of what metric they examined. 

"It was a very striking result," Piquero said.

Piquero said he believed the issue was larger than the study's results indicated.

"In my mind, I think that 8% is a floor and not a ceiling," Piquero said. "I think the problem is actually worse than we actually know right now."

Data on domestic violence is already difficult to study, as many survivors do not report, and when they do, their pleas are often not taken seriously. 

For over a year, experts on the issue have been apprehensive about a potential rise in domestic violence due to the pandemic’s combination of social isolation and financial insecurity. 

The United Nations has labeled this rise as a “Shadow pandemic,” as survivors are isolated from outside help. These lockdowns were intended to protect people from the dangers of a deadly virus, but for many people, the home is not a sanctuary. 

The NCCCJ authors claim that the evidence supporting their findings is very strong, but they have yet to nail down the exact causes for the increase.

The current theories are that the pandemic lockdowns worsened factors that are typically associated with domestic violence, such as unemployment, financial insecurity, and stress from child care and homeschooling. 

In a press release, NCCCJ Director Thomas Abt said that the pandemic has been particularly challenging for society’s most vulnerable people. 

“Policymakers and researchers should work to further understand the impacts of the pandemic and provide additional resources for domestic abuse prevention and victim services, particularly to those who are most isolated and at risk,” Abt said. 

During a White House briefing on Monday, May 24, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that “the pandemic and its economic impact significantly increased the risks of abuse for victims of domestic violence and made it much harder for them to seek safety and support.”

This $200 million that will be allocated to survivors was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The support will be provided by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, which is the primary federal funding stream devoted to offering emergency shelter and other assistance to survivors of domestic violence and their children. 

It will also distribute 296 supplemental grant awards to finance domestic violence services in every state and territory, providing funding for tribes, state domestic violence coalitions, national resource centers, specialized services for abused parents, children grantees, and national domestic violence hotlines. 

In a statement on Monday, JooYeun Chang, Acting Assistant Secretary of The Administration of Children and Families, said that the American Rescue Plan is helping to provide critical support to enhance existing programs that give shelter and services to survivors and their children. 

“The rise in domestic violence incidents during the COVID-19 public health emergency is a crisis within the pandemic, that’s why President Biden is investing in the network that supports survivors and families,” Chang said. 

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