Long before COVID-19 existed, underreporting of domestic violence has been a concern of law enforcement officials and survivor advocates. But amid stay-at-home orders, unemployment and other complications brought on by the pandemic have officials worried the problem may be growing.
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and experts say the need to raise awareness of the issue appears to be greater than ever.
Pasadena police reported receiving 14 percent fewer calls related to domestic violence this year through the end of August, compared with the same time period last year. But with studies indicating domestic violence has increased during the pandemic on the national and global scales, Lt. William Grisafe said police were cognizant of the possibility that the drop in service calls may represent a reduction in the reporting of the crimes, rather than a decrease in their occurrences.
And unfortunately, that appears to be precisely what is happening, according to Yvette Lozano, chief program officer at the domestic violence survivor advocacy group Peace Over Violence.
“Domestic violence, pre-COVID, was one of the most underreported crimes,” she said. Despite this year’s drop in reported incidents of domestic violence, Peace Over Violence doesn’t seem to have been any less busy during the pandemic.
There was a similar concern about the possible underreporting of child abuse, as children are no longer attending school in-person, potentially allowing signs of abuse to go unnoticed by teachers or others, Losano said.
The pandemic and its repercussions have increased the stress faced by survivors of violence, Lozano said. A number of survivors who have previously gotten back on their feet, financially, have been returning to Peace Over Violence to seek support after facing pandemic-related hardships.
But whether the need is emergency temporary housing, help with groceries, legal services, counseling or other forms of support, Lozano said Peace Over Violence stands ready to help, pandemic or not.
While the agency’s physical offices are closed, and much of the interaction normally done in person is being done over the phone or internet, the advocacy group is still working around the clock to aid victims.
“Our doors may be closed, but our telephone lines are still open and out advocates are ready to support,” she said.
Peace Over Violence’s 24-hour L.A. Rape & Battering Hotline can be reached at (626) 793-3385.
More information on Peace Over Violence, which serves the central Los Angeles-area and 22 cities in the western San Gabriel Valley, is available on the organization’s website at peaceoverviolence.org.