Domestic violence during COVID-19

By Cassandra Drumond

Alianza News

Intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence, has risen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic mainly due to rising tensions and frustration over job loss, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Women have experienced spousal abuse, while also one in ten men are victims of domestic violence.

Psychiatrist, writer and compassion educator Dr. Ravi Chandra, a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, in the San Francisco Bay Area will tackle the difficult question rarely asked about domestic violence and attempt to explain why abusers abuse. Chandra explains: “We live in a culture of abusive power, COVID-19 and racist sentiments have an underlying cause, a miasma of narcissistic tribalistic personality and culture. An abused child usually grows up to abuse others. For instance, Trump used his power to avoid the justice system and yet 72 million voted for him, which shows abuse gets approval from far too many people. We are all affected by a culture that deems money and power as more important than relationships and compassion. Compassion and common humanity have become bad objects and have been subordinated for the past 5 years. We have seen what it is like to be in an abusive household and how difficult it is to fight your way out. It takes a massive collective effort.”

We know COVID-19 has been a stressor and a destroyer and the hidden pandemic of intimate partner violence has been exacerbated. The data regarding calls to hotlines are mixed, there are reports of increased calls and there are reports of decreased calls, the latter likely due to the issue of making private calls during isolation.

In terms of what victims in Santa Clara County can expect from the case against their perpetrators, resources available, and how domestic violence victims can seek protection, HaNhi L. Tran, Deputy District Attorney for Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office explains: “The process in a criminal case begins when the police are called. Even during the pandemic, victims are still able to call at any time, as our services are considered essential. Criminal cases are still being heard and our offices will continue to operate during shelter in place orders. Courts are allowing victims to also appear through Zoom or other video call methods. We also have the victim services unit, which has help available in many languages including Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, as well as a 3rd party interpretation service for languages not listed. In terms of restraining orders, there are two types. One is an emergency order that is granted for victims and is in effect for a limited amount of time. The second type is a criminal protective order that is issued through the court. We are aware the criminal justice system can be very intimating, and more difficult during these times, so it is important to be in touch with the assigned victim advocate and the District Attorney’s Office. Finally, we know victims may require immigration legal services, so family justice centers should be contacted as well. There are two open in Santa Clara County for in person services.”

Johanna Thai Van Dat, lead attorney for the Santa Clara County Family Law Facilitator’s Office/ Self Help Center, explains what happens when police are not involved or there is not a criminal case: “There are different types of civil restraining orders in regards to domestic violence, the first one, domestic violence, means that the person requesting the restraining order has to have a first or second degree familiar relationship with the alleged perpetrator, which means a dating or intimate partner relationship. Outside of those relationships, it would be considered civil harassment, such as a neighbor or coworker. When customers come in, we provide legal information, not legal advice, as this is a different relationship than an attorney-client one.

What is important to know is that when people come in, we want to first ask them what the relationship is between them and the person he or she is looking to restrain, which determines which forms we give them to fill out. We provide the form packet along with a sample, so it is easier to navigate. If an emergency order is granted, then it is in place until the court hearing. Typically, the court hearing happens within 21 days depending on the situation. Then, the victim presents information in a declaration to the court. Civil harassment is different and is heard in civil court and this information is only applicable to Santa Clara County. We encourage others to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) to access available resources locally in your area.”