It’s safe to say that many of us today are consumed with COVID—how not to get sick, how to get people vaccinated, how to keep kids safely in school, how to reopen businesses and how to recognize and treat mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic.
What I have not heard spoken about in any meaningful way is domestic violence. In fact, the very steps that we have taken to prevent the spread of the virus—quarantines, stay-at-home orders, school closures, economic shutdowns and working remotely—have often created new occasions for abuse. Months of unpaid rent, mounting bills, increased consumption of alcohol, sickness and isolation have not only caused instances of abuse to escalate, but these same factors have contributed to the feeling of helplessness that many victims experience. In much of the world, shelters and legal services are limited or nonexistent. If they do exist, they are likely to be overstretched and under-resourced. In some parts of the world, the United Nations is calling this a “shadow pandemic.”