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Cycles of Abuse in the Wake of Covid-19

By Emily Hsiang, Student at Haverford College

Trigger Warning: Domestic violence and abuse

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an observable increase in domestic abuse rates worldwide. Of course, many factors contribute to this: the placement of victims into constant contact with their abusers via isolation; the restriction of access to other social, emotional, and energy outlets; the removal of witnesses including welfare agencies, friends, or passing onlookers; most importantly, the overall rise in tension levels, as jobs have been lost, grief has struck, and fear has set in

In addition to acknowledging the cause of increased domestic violence, we must, in turn, look ahead to what the increased domestic violence itself may cause. What happens to the victims of domestic abuse? How will the increase of domestic abuse cases manifest in years to come…in generations to come? 

Here, it is interesting to discuss the idea of “A Cycle of Violence”, or the perpetuation of violence generally, in the context of domestic violence. In particular, social scientists have observed violent acts to repeat in a cyclical trend. This pattern may be the result of victims processing their trauma and developing feelings of vengefulness and frustration, as well as victims learning to express themselves through violence by the example of their abusers

This behavior shows up most commonly in examples of children who experience abuse, as young minds are highly impressionable. In particular, parent-child relationships are highly influential given children so easily internalize the behaviors of their parents. Experiencing violent behavior in early development may majorly affect the way a child will grow to channel their emotions and treat others. 

As evidence, many studies reveal habits of violence and criminality in grown-up abuse victims. Take, for example, this New York Times article, which analyzes the personal history behind those who have committed specific terrorist acts; or, the expository documentary, Generations of Violence, which investigates the way violence extends through a family tree through the study of real-life criminal cases. 

Thus, with a larger number of abuse cases worldwide, the concern is whether we will see “generations of violence” in years to come post-Covid-19. Acknowledging the threat of this issue, it is important to do everything we can to educate ourselves, raise awareness, and take action in the meantime. 

For instance, review how domestic abuse is defined and what warning signals may be so you can identify an abusive situation before it becomes truly life-threatening. There are many resources that teach basic information about domestic violence, including the “Education & Resources” page of the Women Against Abuse website and this “Signs of Abuse” article by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  

In addition, an article was written by Contributing Editor Jenna Song last April about Women In Transition, a nonprofit organization based in Center City, Philadelphia. Women In Transition provides a robust network of education and resources to help survivors of domestic abuse, to which you may donate by emailing donate@helpwomen.org.

For quick resources, Phila.gov has an entire webpage of phone numbers to call for those in danger of domestic abuse–from helplines specific to women, to children, to those seeking medical help, shelter, or legal aid, and so on. These phone numbers may be important to add to your contacts, or just to share with others to make them aware of their options. Primarily, anyone who might need help can call the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline at any time at (866)-723-3014.

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