The COVID-19 pandemic brought international awareness to the likelihood of increased abuse of those in abusive intimate partner relationships because of the forced confinement with their abusers (Bettinger-Lopez and Bro, A double pandemic: domestic violence in the age of COVID 19, Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/double-pandemic-domestic-violence-age-covid-19, 2020). While this awareness was much discussed, assistance to survivors of abuse was limited because survivors often could not reach out for help, nor could advocates wishing to offer assistance safely reach in to advise them (Taub, A new Covid-19 crisis: domestic abuse rises worldwide. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html, 2020). The ever-present influence of the abuser prevented or limited the delivery of effective aid in many cases (Taub, A new Covid-19 crisis: domestic abuse rises worldwide. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html, 2020). But this was not the first disaster to place those experiencing intimate partner abuse at greater risk. Other disasters have in various ways increased women’s safety risks both during and after crisis. Other crises routinely resulted in increased abuse of survivors in intimate partner relationships including sexual and other assault by intimate partners (Rao 2020; Sohrabizadeh Prehosp Disaster Med, 31(4):407–412. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27212204, 2016). This chapter briefly identifies some forms of abuse experienced by women outside of the home during times of crisis and their connection to intimate partner abuse. Then, the impact of COVID-19 on intimate partner survivors will be explored and some of their experiences described.
Gaps and flaws in nations’ approaches to gender violence are often highlighted during and after disasters. Lack of planning to protect survivors of intimate partner violence and other highly vulnerable populations during crises was exacerbated by the additional dangers brought by COVID-19. Primarily, the heightened dangers resulted from stay-at-home orders, which made services for abused partners more difficult to obtain and highlighted the possibility of unintended consequences resulting from policies designed to protect the public as a whole (Godin 2020).
This chapter concludes by considering what has been lacking in strategic disaster planning, including what lessons have been learned thus far through the COVID-19 experience. Recommendations for effective disaster planning to protect survivors of intimate partner abuse, while also protecting other vulnerable populations, are suggested. This information is presented with the caution that as of this writing the global pandemic continues to limit access to hard data. Long-term analysis of the implications of the pandemic on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) survivors awaits the passage of time.
Drew, Margaret, "Feminist Perspectives on Disaster, Pandemics, and Intimate Partner Violence" (2020). Faculty Publications. 233.