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As COVID-19 Surges, So Does Domestic Violence

The lack of privacy during stay-at-home orders can make accessing domestic violence services more difficult for the people who need them. (sdecoret/Adobe Stock)
The lack of privacy during stay-at-home orders can make accessing domestic violence services more difficult for the people who need them. (sdecoret/Adobe Stock)
April 10, 2020

NEW YORK -- While stay-at-home measures appear to be slowing the spread of the new coronavirus, they are also leading to an increase in domestic violence.

It's a worldwide phenomenon. Where social distancing keeps people in their homes, reports of domestic violence have surged.

In New York City, visits to the city's domestic violence website more than doubled in the past three weeks.

Although many city and state services have been curtailed by the pandemic, Anna Maria Diamanti -- director of family and matrimonial practice at the legal services organization Her Justice -- says courts still are open for virtual appearances in emergency proceedings.

"The courts are up and running for Order of Protection applications," says Diamanti, "and there are agencies out there that are available to help for those services."

The New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline has contact information for local support programs throughout the state, at 800-942-6906.

But Diamanti notes there are victims who are sheltering or quarantined with their abusers, and who may not able to take advantage of remote access to the courts or other service providers.

"We have been working with various city agencies to try to find solutions for those folks, and it's really difficult," says Diamanti. "We've had a couple of clients now where we're literally trying to get them extricated from that home, and it's been really tough."

She adds if it feels unsafe to contact city or legal services, it may be possible to let a family member or neighbor know that help is needed.

Diamanti points out that even with constraints imposed by the pandemic, domestic violence shelters are still operating.

"Those services are still open and available," says Diamanti, "but it may be a little bit longer or more difficult process than usual, because there's going to be concerns about exposure and things related to that."

At an April 3 news conference, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, emphasized that law enforcement will fully investigate every reported case of domestic violence.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY