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Domestic violence during COVID-19: 'Like throwing gasoline on a fire'

Video: Expert explains increased risk of domestic violence during home isolation

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced families globally to self-quarantine at home, and research shows domestic violence increases when people are at home together, said Northwestern Medicine professor Lori Post, an expert in gender-based violence. 

“COVID is not going to cause someone to be violent who wasn’t violent in the first place,” Post said. “However, if you have a violent person in the home in the first place, it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire. It’s going to exacerbate it. Crisis-types of conditions are more conducive to making the violence more severe.” Watch or download the full video soundbite.

Post is the director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The center is part of Northwestern’s Institute for Public Health and Medicine. Post also is a professor of emergency medicine and of medical social sciences at Northwestern.

Post is available for interviews with the media. Reporters interested in speaking with her can contact Kristin Samuelson at (cell) 847-769-6596 or ksamuelson@northwestern.edu

Post covered the following topics in a video interview recorded Monday, April 6. Soundbites are available for download and use in media outlets (please credit Northwestern University):

Domestic violence spikes when people are home together:

“During Christmas break and summer vacations, domestic violence spikes. It’s when people are home together. A batterer wants control, so having the quarantine situation with COVID increases the level of control he’s able to exert. He’s got her right where he wants her. COVID’s physical isolation or shelter-in-place mandates increase the ‘exposure’ or opportunity to be abused.” Watch or download the full soundbite

Emotional abuse in domestic violence:

“Psychological abuse would be ‘What are you wearing makeup for? Who are you trying to impress? I noticed on the car there were three extra miles on there, and you said you were just going to go to Costco. Where did you really go?’ Emotional is like, ‘If it weren’t for me, you would never have a husband who would even love somebody like you.’” Watch or download the full soundbite

Status of domestic violence shelters, pending domestic violence cases:

“It’s very difficult for women to relocate during a lockdown because domestic violence shelters are also under a shelter-in-place order, are going down to extremely reduced staff, like one person per small shelter, and must follow government guidelines to minimize the transmission of COVID.

“Right now we don’t want to increase the number of people in our jails and our prisons. A lot of pending domestic violence offenders are being dismissed and released right back into the community. Watch or download the full soundbite.

Global domestic violence is spiking:

“In Spain, they’re reporting a 100% increase in domestic violence (a doubling of it). What we’re seeing going on in China and in Europe informs what’s likely happening in the United States.” Watch or download the full soundbite.

If you or somebody you know is a victim of abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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Video interview soundbites

Download All Videos (.zip file)

Full interview with Lori Post in which she gives her take on the heightened risk for domestic violence during COVID-19 quarantining.
Full interview with Lori Post in which she gives her take on the heightened risk for domestic violence during COVID-19 quarantining.
Lori Post describes that domestic violence increases when people are at home together.
Lori Post describes that domestic violence increases when people are at home together.
If violence already exists in a household, a period of self-quarantine at home will exacerbate the violence, like throwing gasoline on a fire.
If violence already exists in a household, a period of self-quarantine at home will exacerbate the violence, like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Lori Post explains that psychological and emotional abuse are included in domestic violence.
Lori Post explains that psychological and emotional abuse are included in domestic violence.
Domestic violence shelters are reluctant to take people in right now, given quarantine measures, Lori Post explains.
Domestic violence shelters are reluctant to take people in right now, given quarantine measures, Lori Post explains.
There has been a global spike in domestic violence, Lori Post explains.
There has been a global spike in domestic violence, Lori Post explains.

Interview the Experts

LoriPost171 Headshot

Lori Post

Buehler Professor of Geriatric Medicine
Professor of Emergency Medicine and Medical Social Sciences
Director, Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at the Institute for Public Health and Medicine