Community Columnists

YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS | Domestic abuse cases up amid COVID-19; how victims can prepare

Attorney David Betras
Attorney David Betras

Sometime around 50 B.C. a Roman slave named Publilius Syrus coined the phrase “nimia familiaritas parit contemptum” which means “familiarity breeds contempt.” At the same time across town, the poet Sextus Propertius had a different take on relationships. He believed “semper in absentes felicior aestus amantes” or that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

While philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists and Dr. Phil have spent 2,071 years arguing over which Roman was right, the alarming rise in domestic violence that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures used to battle it give Publilius the edge.

While disheartening to hopeless romantics, the increase comes as no surprise to experts like sociologist Marianne Hester who have long recognized that families under financial strain as well as those that spend more time together than usual during the Christmas holidays or while on summer vacation are 3 1/2 times more likely to experience domestic violence.

The authors of an insightful study published by the National Institutes of Health assert that COVID-19 lockdowns, layoffs, job losses, reductions in income, forced proximity to partners and children, the inability to escape abusers and similar factors are fueling a significant surge in partner-on-partner and adult-on-child violence. Statistics gathered during the pandemic verify their assertion: Calls to domestic violence hotlines have increased by 40% to 50%, and here in Ohio the number of domestic murders has skyrocketed by 62%.

Those stats are reflected in the growth of domestic relations cases being handled by our office. Mark DeVicchio, who leads Betras Kopp & Markota’s Domestic Relations Practice Group and has been practicing divorce and family law for more than two decades, reports that the explosion in the number of cases and the level of vitriol between parties is unprecedented and potentially dangerous, because partners who under normal circumstances would have separated are compelled by circumstances or finances to continue to live together.

Now comes the hard part: How can victims or potential victims protect themselves at a time when escaping an abuser is more difficult than ever? Here are some suggestions and resources:

Take the time to create a comprehensive safety plan that will enable you to respond to and escape from a violent situation. Lutheran Social Services offers free online tool here.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein offers these suggestions for victims or potential victims who are forced to live with partners they fear:

Use the new online tool created by Ohio Legal Help to safely and discretely access and complete the legal forms needed to obtain a obtain a civil protection order.

Never hesitate to call 911 if you or others in the home are in danger.

And here’s an assignment for those of us who are not in abusive situations: Contact your state representative, state senator and Gov. Mike DeWine and demand that a portion of the billions of dollars the state is receiving from the federal government be used to address domestic abuse and protect and heal victims.

Domestic violence is a public health crisis, a pandemic within the pandemic. We should deal with it accordingly.

Copyright Privacy Policy Terms of Service