Study highlights link between the pandemic and the rise in domestic violence cases around Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The seemingly unending daily headlines of domestic violence is not an accident.

Advocates for domestic violence survivors say the trend is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the latest study shows there's no end in sight.

"It's alarming. It's disturbing," said Executive Director of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council Barbie Brashear. "It matches what we are hearing nationally, that domestic violence is on the rise."

This was such a concern that the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council commissioned a study to look at the link between the pandemic and the dramatic rise in domestic violence cases.

Among the study's participants, 52% reported violence has increased since COVID-19 started. In fact, 30% of study participants said they have used a domestic abuse resource, either a hotline or a shelter, during the pandemic. In addition, one in four respondents say they were threatened by their partner with a gun.

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"I lose my job, how do I pay my rent? Food insecurity. The increased use of drugs and alcohol to cope with those things," Brashear said all contribute to the rise in cases.

More than 80% of participants listed their health as excellent or good before the pandemic. Now only 62% say they have good health.

Around 60% of respondents also reported they either lost their job or had their work hours cut.

"We're not post COVID yet," Brashear said. "We don't know what it will look like, which is why we wanted to do this survey and put in place preventative measures as much as possible."

The study's findings correlate with what counselors at the Houston Area Women's Center (HAWC) domestic abuse hotline are seeing.

"Domestic violence has always been an issue in our community," said Chau Nguyen of HAWC. "But, we're seeing rising rates. We're seeing rising rates of homicide, and we're seeing escalating violence. That's what our hotline counselors are hearing from survivors reaching out to us."

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Data provided by HAWC is sobering.

Here are the number of calls the organization has received over the last three years. In 2019, there were 39,615 calls. During the pandemic in 2020, they recieved 45,904 calls. And so far in 2021, they've already received 25,543.

"We're very concerned," said Nguyen. "Right now, with the rising rates and the reports of homicides, stations like yours are reporting that violence is getting out of control. We need to talk to people and let them know that they're not alone, that help is available."

The Houston Area Women's Center for Domestic Violence's hotline is (713) 528-2121.

For more on domestic violence cases during the pandemic, follow Miya Shay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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