The past three years have seen monumental loss and unprecedented circumstances, but what impact have those changes had on domestic violence? Let’s take a look.
How It Started
Many states issued stay-at-home orders to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19, but this indirectly isolated many people from the resources they need. While domestic abuse hotlines prepared for the worst, they found that the number of calls dropped by more than 50%.
Experts on intimate partner violence believe that the drop in calls was because many victims could not safely connect with services. Regions with a decrease in caseloads are preparing for a surge now that restrictions and shutdowns are lifting across the United States.
It’s fair to say that being isolated for over a year has increased tension among families, which often leads to domestic violence. Coronavirus did not create abusers, but it has given them ample opportunities to lash out against others.
What Makes Domestic Violence Complicated?
Domestic violence cases are some of the most difficult to defend and prosecute, but why?
For starters, evidence is a crucial part of all criminal cases, but much of the evidence needed to prove abuse in a domestic violence situation is more circumstantial than concrete. In general, concrete evidence might include DNA, medical records of injuries, and forensic evidence. The best evidence in any trial is proof that is indisputable. For domestic violence cases, this is not always possible.
In many cases, victims are afraid to seek help, whether from an advocacy organization or a hospital. While it is understandable why victims would fear retribution or further harm, not reporting abuse and/or getting medical help might mean they don’t get concrete evidence to prove that abuse occurred. If the evidence does not corroborate the victim’s claim, the case will likely be dropped.
The Other Side
Domestic violence is a very real and extremely painful reality for millions of people, so it’s so horrible when someone makes a false claim. We’ve all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf – he kept tricking the villagers into thinking a wolf was attacking the sheep, except when it turned out to be honest, the villagers ignored him, thinking he was up to his old tricks again.
When someone makes a false claim of domestic violence, it destroys the reputation of the person they accuse of abuse and the validity of real claims from actual victims. In general, if a supposed victim has a history of fake accusations, the court will dismiss the case. However, there are cases where someone makes a false claim to get even.
False domestic violence claims during divorce proceedings and after a breakup is very common. A spouse may use this as a tactic to ensure that they get full custody or more spousal support. They might also petition the court for a protective order to validate their claim further.
However, these actions have serious consequences for the spouse accused of abuse. A protective order could cause someone to lose custody and visitation rights with their children. Using abuse as leverage against someone else is a manipulative move that could be devastating.
The Cost of False Accusations
False accusations of domestic abuse hurt real victims. As mentioned earlier, it’s like the boy who cried wolf. Another reason why false accusations are so hurtful is that it reinforces the perception that coming forward is fruitless – that no one will believe you.
Victims of domestic abuse often feel like law enforcement and the community won’t believe their claims, especially minorities. Reporting among Black and African American victims are less likely to report abuse to law enforcement than white people.
That said, when someone makes a claim that is proven to be false, other victims may see it as further evidence that they are isolated from the resources that could help them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sharp increase in domestic violence cases, but it’s also important to keep in mind that some people see a domestic violence report as a way to get revenge. When this happens, it is incredibly destructive to the person accused of abuse and other victims.
If you have been accused of domestic violence, you must seek legal help immediately. Don’t wait – schedule a consultation with Eldridge & Blakney, PC.