Submitted by Nichelle Harper on Wed, 10/07/2020 - 16:49
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >The Threats within the Household: A Deep Dive into Domestic Abuse & COVID-19</span>

The Threats within the Household: A Deep Dive into Domestic Abuse & COVID-19

In the early stages of the COVID-19 epidemic, teachers and school administrators had concerns about the safety of some students in their own homes. Unfortunately, the facts have concluded that their concerns were valid. Quarantines and lockdowns have meant that students at risk of abuse are left alone with abusive loved ones for prolonged continuous periods. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a restructuring of the public services that provide support for people experiencing domestic violence. Due to the many obstacles that were introduced to families during the onset of the virus such as health concerns, financial challenges, and even psychological stress, a large spike in domestic violence within the household has been very apparent. This, in turn, can prove very detrimental to families everywhere and challenge educators to take steps to ensure the student environment is conducive to learning.

COVID-19 related restrictions are very significant steps towards reducing the impact of the virus and the public health crisis. However, for adults, children, and youth, research has proven that the impact of domestic abuse is strongly correlated with diminished psychological and physical health, quality of life, as well as educational and economic productivity which are all significantly increased by situational factors due to COVID-19. This insists that there is an urgent need for the community-based programs mentioned above to assess their capacity to address domestic violence during this time. Also, there is an increasingly dire need for survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive programs to step in and protect their communities however possible. 

According to the Administration for Children and Families, when it comes to responding to the needs of survivors, preparedness is a crucial thread that can be woven into the infrastructure of many programs. Having a specific focus on responding to domestic violence as part of your districts disaster and emergency preparedness plans require the following:

  • Advance training
  • Cultivating partnerships with local domestic violence service providers and state domestic violence coalition.
  • Reviewing your plans at the onset of a disaster or emergency for effective implementation.
  • Regularly updating resources as new information becomes available.

These are elements that make a difference and could be applied to the protocol for school districts everywhere! In this blog, we will take a deep dive into the relationship between domestic violence and COVID-19 and the actions that we should take as educators.


Spikes in domestic violence amid COVID-19

The San Antonio Police Department released numbers showing that there was a 21% increase in family violence calls from 2019 to date.  Law officials are now making a direct connection between the current stress of COVID-19 and the increasing domestic violence numbers. The systems in place such as SAPD’s Positive Parenting Program, Tripple P., and the Handle with Care Program have come into effect more now than ever to help manage kid’s behavior and prevent problems from developing between law enforcement and within the household. The Handle with care program even takes a step to inform the school if children are involved in traumatic situations. In discussing domestic violence in the home, a representative for SAPD stated, “We can’t do anything about it unless someone calls.” This means that to take the step survivors must reach out to take advantage of these programs. To take the step, however, the information has to be readily available as well. Sometimes the availability of these resources in schools and public places can be the difference! (A full list of resources for survivors and family members can be found at


Check out how domestic violence survivors are navigating COVID-19


According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations (SAMHSA), rates of child abuse and neglect are five times higher for children in low socio-economic status compared to those in high socio-economic status. In fact, the total lifetime economic burden associated with child abuse in the US was approximately $428 billion in 2015! According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million Americans are victims of domestic violence annually (That is approximately 20 every minute!) .Exposure to violence in childhood increases the risks of injury, future violence victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities according to SAMHSA. Not only are children more susceptible to these outcomes but the support systems that many parents rely on are no longer available due to stay-at-home orders and they may not have the means to use alternative ways to stay connected. These support groups are extended family, child care and schools, and even religious groups. To make matters worse child welfare agencies are experiencing a strain as it pertains to finding available workers to conduct home visits. Due to virtual classrooms, teachers are not able to identify the signs of abuse and report them to the proper authorities. There is a need here, and it requires an all-inclusive method to ensure the welfare of students and our communities.


Check out the video below on how social isolation can raise child abuse risk:



Here are resources below that could be used to help communities deal with domestic violence and child abuse health concerns:

  • Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) offers a session on Addiction Recovery and Intimate Violence This is a one-hour self-paced course and is based on industry awareness about Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
  • The National Hispanic and Latino ATTC recorded a webinar this February on the “Intersection of Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence and Addiction”
  • Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence - Quick Guide for Clinicians Based on TIP 25 -
  • The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, a SAMHSA partner, recently released: Supporting Survivors’ Access to Substance Usd Disorder and Mental Health Services During the COVID-19 Emergency
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline Staying Safe During COVID-19 Phone number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • The National Network to Eliminate Domestic Violence Resources on the Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Department of Justice, Office of Women’s Health Local Resources on Domestic Violence
  • Prevent Child Abuse America Coronavirus Resources & Tips for Parents, Children & Others
  • Stronghearts Native Helpline 1-844-762-8483
  • Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
  • National Parent Hotline (call 1-855-427-2736)
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (visit opens in a new tab or call 1-800-422-4453)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (visit opens in a new tab, text LOVEIS to 22522, or call 1-800-799-7233)
  • Futures Without Violence (visit opens in new tab)


How can we teach students in an unsafe environment?

We are at a time where we are compelled to consider the underlying causes of student misbehaviors or drastic changes in actions and personality. The reality is that chances are the emotional and economical toll for students is life-changing! The last of a student of parents' concern is turning in a homework assignment when they are surrounded by death, can afford rent, or have shifted their lives to be caregivers for loved ones. Realize that some children's safe haven was the school for those dealing with domestic abuse. Even if those children are not the target, consider the idea that some of them may be experiencing the emotional toll of witnessing abuse within their household. The threats within the household are very real and could be crippling for students altogether. When basic needs of safety, food, and shelter are compromised, how could there be any room to be attentive at school?

As educators, we have the responsibility to be very aware of differences in our students’ behavior, to go the extra mile now more than ever to achieve our goals. An article entitled, “A Pandemic within a Pandemic” talks about how domestic violence has become a pandemic within COVID-19. It suggests that clinicians, public health officials, and policymakers need to live a new version of normal due to the many underlying issues that have arrived under the current circumstances. This is the reality for schools and districts. It is necessary to revisit and revise current emergency protocols and make certain that all teachers understand the next steps when encountering a situation.

(Check out this resource, “School Social Work in the Time of COVID-19: When Human-Centered Work Moved Online”)

The only way to teach effectively now is to ensure learning can be attained. This is not a task that requires only one individual, but it is an effort that requires systems to change. Public safety is a factor in how effective a school, the curriculum, and its teachers can be. Ensure that the emergency hotlines are readily available, inform and equip teachers, even have good relationships with community programs and public safety organizations. Teachers may be the only ones able to get a glimpse inside the life of a student, and sometimes that student's wellbeing, health, and even their life can depend on it. 

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