The Rise of Domestic Violence

By Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S.

abused woman with bruises peeking through door

The pandemic’s mandatory lockdown has set in motion an array of economic, political and global instabilities. It has been the catalyst of political and civil unrest. It has created a massive burden on the tax payer. While it is understood that the lockdown was to prevent and to protect the global community at large; there has developed another crisis upon the horizon. The domestic violence crisis could be described as a tsunami forcing its way into the lives of many.  

A mother of two reports to a 911 operator that “my husband is passed out on the floor” The operator asks the caller if she’s capable of leaving the house and getting to a place of safety. The caller informs the 911 operator that she’s in fear of her life and the lives of her children.  

The COVID-19 crisis has fueled the rise of domestic violence. The abuser and the victims of abuse are now left alone, isolated and forced to spend more time together. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and other centers are now reporting an unprecedented increase in reports of domestic violence.  

The Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations has called for measures to address the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence.” The increase in domestic violence is being blamed on the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic has had a dire effect upon the safety of many individuals.  

Research has clearly shown that episodes of domestic violence increases anytime that an opportunity prevails itself. The rate of domestic violence has been staggering during this pandemic. According to the United Nations, the rate of domestic violence has reported an increase at “17 per cent jump in gender-based violence cases, with urban areas witnessing a particular spike.” 

At the core of domestic violence is power and control. It involves unhealthy verbal, nonverbal, and physical communication. Domestic violence can morph into a variety of violent forms including: physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, threats, intimidation, stalking, bullying, and cyberstalking.  

For a long time, there has been a misperception around domestic violence. Domestic violence can occur at any socioeconomic level.  It can be instigated by men or women. Domestic violence does not occur all the time, nor are women and children the only victims of domestic violence.  Believe it or not, the most unreported form of abuse occurs when women are abusing men.  Either way, domestic violence is never an acceptable form of communication. 


According to the World Health Organization, studies have revealed that one of the greatest influences of domestic violence is addiction to drugs or alcohol. The WHO’s studies have revealed that 42% of victims have reported the use of drugs or alcohol on the day that the abuse occurred.   Studies have indicated that those who are abused by an addict are commonly fearful of repeated abuse. 

There is a challenge when treating someone with an addiction and issues of domestic violence.  For many clinicians, they are often trained to treat one or the other. Moreover, the treatment approach and styles often differ and may even conflict.  


As a clinician, I have worked alongside a variety of clinics including drug and alcohol treatment centers. Unfortunately, there is seldom an integrated approach between domestic abuse and substance abuse services. Furthermore, there is rarely an integrated approach involving psychological care and these other services. The avoidance of complementary mental health services seems to originate from the training that these programs have received. According to the National Institute of Justice, only one-quarter of domestic violence programs reported broaching the topic of substance abuse, and only 54% of substance abuse programs have reported broaching the topic of domestic violence. The avoidance of merging these modalities may be fostered by the training or a particular school of thought. Either way, the lack of collaboration may be fueling the problems that occur within the home.  


The pandemic is not to blame for this most egregious form of communication. Domestic abuse is a form of communication fueled by personal insecurities, temperament, economic, educational or lack therein, physical and psychological conditions. The pandemic should not be blamed for the rise in domestic violence, rather it has exposed the conditions of many familial environments.  

According to the WHO, “almost one third (30%) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Globally, as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners.” These numbers are staggering and completely unacceptable. No life should endure the cruelty and harm that occurs through domestic violence.

While the pandemic may have proven the instigator revealing this familial crisis, we are ultimately responsible for ending it. We are in uncharted waters and we need to mitigate through them. In order to achieve lasting change, we need to advocate for those experiencing domestic violence and those who are perpetrating the abuse. There needs to be a more collaborative approach to therapy. In a number of countries, there remains an inequality amongst women and men. We must strive for true equality. There is never an excuse for abuse. 

Whether you are struggling with an addiction, or you are experiencing an abusive relationship, it is of the utmost importance that you seek help. Do not delay seeking help today. It can be troublesome to know of someone who is struggling. If you do know someone, please report any suspicion of domestic violence. As the DHS slogan says, if you see something, say something.  

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via text, or call 1-800-799-7233, or contact Family Youth and Services Bureau.  

Dr.  Asa Don Brown is a prolific author, an engaging speaker, human rights advocate, and clinical psychologist. He serves as first responder in New York and he has held university faculty positions teaching incoming freshmen to those completing their graduate work.