Friday, March 27, 2020
As COVID-19 spreads across the nation, many are voicing alarm that sickness and social distancing will spark an epidemic of domestic violence. The alarm is merited. Social and economic stressors like job loss, discrimination, community dislocation and trauma correlate with increased domestic violence. The fact that families are cooped up together may make matters worse.
As domestic violence scholars and victims’ advocates, we are heartened that the media and public commentators have shifted from describing domestic violence solely as something individual criminals do to a phenomenon deeply connected with social marginality and economic precarity — conditions that will be exponentially aggravated by the virus.However, we are concerned that having identified the potential for increased violence, the solution will be increased arrests and prosecutions. Police and prosecutors’ offices have assured the public that they are open for “business as usual” when it comes to domestic violence.
The pandemic has put a spotlight on the perils of the United States’ decades-long addiction to using criminal law as a primary solution to social problems.