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Domestic violence homicides up during the pandemic

Adrian Florez

The King County Prosecutor’s Office recently filed it’s 11th domestic violence homicide charge for the year. There were only four domestic violence murder cases all of last year. Calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which includes Washington state, also are up. Domestic violence experts say COVID-19 is making the situation for domestic violence victims worse.

Judy Chen, executive director of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said it’s more difficult than ever for people to leave an abusive relationship. She said there’s added stress, isolation and financial insecurity that have come with the pandemic.

“It creates a situation where a survivor’s safety is further compromised,” she said.

She cited an example of a woman who called the hotline. Previously, the woman had left an abusive partner, gotten a job and a place to live. Once COVID-19 hit, she lost her job and faced eviction. Then her ex-partner called and offered to pay her rent if he could move back in.

"And so she had to make the very difficult decision on what to do and decided to let him back in and so now she and her child are with this person who is very controlling and abusive,” Chen said. 

One hard thing about the pandemic, Chen said, is that people are more isolated from friends and family. She said often people assume there’s nothing they can do to stop domestic violence, but that isn’t the case. She said if you know someone at risk of domestic violence, you should reach out.

“It’s very hard sometimes to understand how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship and that a person is experiencing so much isolation and manipulation so that’s why staying in touch with someone in a non-judgemental way is so important,” she said.

The coalition offers tips in its “Family and Friends Guide: How to Help Someone in an Abusive Relationship.”

Washington domestic violence organizations did receive help from Congress in the CARES Act. Chen said it’s meant groups here have been able to increase the resources available to help survivors pay for things like temporary rental assistance for a safe place to live.