Study Shows Variations in Domestic Violence Trends in Five Cities During the Pandemic

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Study Shows Variations in Domestic Violence Trends in Five Cities During the Pandemic    

Jim Windell


            In general, it’s been found that domestic violence decreased or stayed the same in many cities for nearly the first year of the pandemic. But in some cities, domestic violence involving firearms increased.

            That is troubling because when abusers have access to a gun the risk for lethal abuse goes up.

            It is known that firearm purchasing and domestic abuse did ultimately increase during the pandemic. However, research on firearm-involved domestic violence has been limited.

            Researchers at the University of California Davis sought to learn more about firearm domestic violence during the pandemic. To determine the trends in domestic violence and firearm domestic violence before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers used police-reported crime data from Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 31, 2020. The onset of the pandemic was considered to be Mar. 20, 2020. The cities examined were Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, MO, Los Angeles and Nashville. The analysis looked at three main areas: (1.) domestic violence incidents; (2.) firearm domestic violence incidents; and (3.) firearm domestic violence as a proportion of domestic violence incidents.

            The results, recently published in the Journal of Family Violence, found significant variations among the five cities. For instance, after the start of the pandemic, police reports of domestic violence decreased in Kansas City, Los Angeles and Nashville and did not change in Chicago and Cincinnati compared with trends before the pandemic. Also, there was a relative increase in reports of firearm domestic violence at the start of the pandemic in Chicago, Los Angeles and Nashville, with a relative decrease in Kansas City; there were no changes in Cincinnati. Another variation occurred in terms of domestic violence as a portion of overall domestic violence. There was an increase after the start of the pandemic in Chicago, Los Angeles and Nashville, but no changes were observed in Cincinnati and Kansas City.

            The researchers, led by Elizabeth Tomsich, a research data analyst at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Center, point out that the results may reflect a decrease in reporting due to barriers from the pandemic rather than an actual decrease in domestic violence. For example, during the lockdown, it may have been harder for those experiencing domestic violence to report to law enforcement because they were confined with a perpetrator who was monitoring their communications. It was also noted that by contrast firearm domestic violence may be less sensitive to pandemic-related forces that may have affected reporting. Among violent crimes, aggravated assault is the most likely to be reported to law enforcement.

            In addition, increases in firearm purchasing during the pandemic and the reported increases in domestic firearm violence in some cities remain a concern, as firearm access is associated with a fivefold increase in the odds of intimate partner violence.

            According to Tomsich, “Interventions that prohibit firearm access, such as domestic violence restraining orders and extreme risk protective orders, as well as prohibitions associated with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, may prove valuable to address the potential increase in the risk of firearm domestic violence.”

            To read the article, find it with this reference:

Tomsich, E. A., Schleimer, J. P., McCort, C. D., & Wintemute, G. J. (2023). Trends in Domestic Violence and Firearm Domestic Violence During COVID-19 in Five US Cities. Journal of Family Violence, 1-10.

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