The Covid pandemic has led to an upswing in gun sales, researchers in the US report, with half of all victims of domestic violence saying they now face more threats of being shot by their abusers than before it began.
The pandemic has also created “a perfect storm” for domestic and “gender-based” violence, according to researchers from universities in Texas and Kentucky, who have teamed up with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to assess the effects of Covid over the past year.
Nearly 40% of respondents to their survey reported that gun sales had increased in their community since the start of the pandemic, with about 50% of respondents reporting that abusers threatening to shoot survivors had become a bigger problem.
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The researchers asked professionals who dealt with domestic abuse survivors to have abuse victims complete a questionnaire that asked about the impact of the pandemic. The study also looked at the risks for survivors, the challenges for agencies, and their interaction with police and sheriffs’ departments.
“The isolation resulting from this pandemic, coupled with financial strain, and a myriad of mental health issues experienced by many, creates a perfect storm to enhance the occurrence of gender-based violence,” said Kellie Lynch, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
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The results revealed strong concerns about financial insecurity for survivors and their families. In particular, the ability to access safe housing was a major worry, with homelessness continuing to rise in the US and many shelters operating at limited capacity.
The impact of continued isolation on mental health and child wellness are also key issues that we must grapple with as we continue to move toward some version of normal.
The research was conducted between September and December, and respondents said they were affected by there being fewer professional staff to help them, statewide mandates restricting access to services, limited resources, less shelter capacity and reduced criminal justice system operations.
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The survey findings indicated that most respondents believed “intimate partner violence,” child abuse, and sexual assault had increased during the pandemic. About two-thirds of respondents reported that abusers had interfered with survivors’ work or employment as a control tactic during the pandemic.
Lynch said the potential risk posed by increased access to firearms in volatile situations could not be overlooked, as an abusive partner’s access to a firearm dramatically increased the risk of domestic fatality. The pandemic had forced agencies to quickly adapt their policies and manage with limited resources, she said.
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