The National Institutes of Health has reported on the increased risk of family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and cautioned domestic violence rates may even increase far after the pandemic dies down. The stay-at-home orders issued in the State of Maryland places many individuals at risk for domestic violence and increases the risk for others who already suffer from regular abuse at home. Victims of domestic violence are now required to perpetually be within harm’s reach of their abusive partners or family. With these rates set to increase, it is important to understand the potential causes as well as the avenues of relief available in the courts to help protect victims of domestic violence.
Causes for Domestic Violence During Quarantine
Although there are a number of reasons why domestic violence may occur in the family home, certain circumstances brought about by COVID-19 have undoubtedly contributed to these unfortunate occurrences:
· Cabin Fever. Increased feelings of irritability and short-temperedness are very common in situations where people are confined to a small space for an extended period of time.
· Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Alcohol sales have been skyrocketing during the time of quarantine. People resort to alcohol when under stress and oftentimes become reliant on it to get through life’s daily stresses. It doesn’t help that drinking is known to lower one’s inhibitions, which can lead to physical violence stemming from trivial arguments.
· Substance Abuse. Many individuals resort to abusing prescription and recreational drugs to help pass time. Individuals with clouded minds oftentimes lash out when their behaviors are called in to question by their spouses. Moreover, individuals who are experiencing withdrawal can become irritable to the point where even the littlest thing will set them off on in a fit of rage.
· Asserting Control. The already abusive partner in a relationship may use the pandemic as an excuse to be more authoritative than normal. The abusive partner sets strict rules for quarantine and becomes upset when those rules are broken.
· Unemployment. A record number of U.S. citizens filed for unemployment during COVID-19. Although the United States Department of Labor has reported a slight decrease in the overall unemployment rate, a striking number of individuals remain unemployed. The stress of being unemployed coupled with the potential to become severely ill with no recourse has anxiety levels at an all-time high for many unemployed individuals. This can cause arguments stemming from a sense of hopelessness.
The potential spread of COVID-19 has required people to stay home and avoid contact with others. As a result, many cases of domestic violence go unreported. The abused spouse may be fearful of going to the hospital to receive medical treatment in the event they might catch the disease from hospital workers or patients. Similarly, abuse victims may be reluctant to call the police to come to their homes in order to maintain social distancing. Moreover, children who suffer from abuse at home are not attending schools. A significant portion of child abuse cases are reported by teachers who notice bruises or cuts on children at school.
Maryland Courts Are Available for Emergency Petitions
The Maryland Courts generally remain closed to the general public and will for some time. However, judges are still permitted to hear emergency petitions on issues pertaining to domestic violence as the courts phase back into being fully operational. Most courts in the State, however, remain severely understaffed and it may be difficult for a victim of domestic violence to get the help they need without legal representation.
Unfortunately, there are strict procedures which must be followed in order to properly petition the court to hear a case on an emergency basis. Failure to follow this process precisely could result in the case not being heard for several months. In domestic violence matters, it is critical that the case be heard before a judge as soon as possible in order to minimize and further harm being done to the victim.
Seeking an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney in Gaithersburg, MD
The capable attorneys of Joseph Greenwald and Laake PA have been assisting clients with domestic violence issues for decades and have extensive experience in litigating emergency petitions in the courts. If you or a loved one is suffering from domestic violence at home, contact an attorney today to schedule a consultation and discuss your options. Our attorneys are available to assist you or your loved ones in obtaining the legal relief you need to feel safe and secure.