COVID-19 has led to hardships as individuals and households deal with lost jobs, social isolation, and the stresses of sheltering in place. A panel discussion presented by Boston University’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (SARP) highlighted how, with domestic abuse cases on the rise due to the pandemic, the LGBTQ+ community has been hit hard especially hard. SARP’s director Nathan Brewer told the Daily Free Press, the Boston University student newspaper, that University’s SARP Center has observed an increase in the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence as a result of COVID-19.
In November 2020, the Center held a panel on domestic violence during COVID-19. One participant, Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz, an associate professor of sociology at Framingham State University, explained the LGBTQ+ community experiences a higher severity of abuse due to being isolated with their abusers within their communities. “Queer and transgender people pre-pandemic were already more isolated from potential family members and friends,” Guadalupe-Diaz said. Queer and trans people were also “disproportionately affected by economic hardships, because they’re overrepresented in sectors of the economy that are closed or locked down or in some way severely impacted,” he added. Guadalupe-Diaz emphasized that people often incorrectly assume that domestic violence only occurs in families or between long-term couples,
Another panelist, Nafisa Halim, a research assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, noted, “It’s very possible that a fear of violence and the stress created by COVID in general is what’s taking a toll in the mental health of the survivors.” Further, the fear of COVID is preventing people from seeking help and also has contributed to fewer police calls and arrests regarding such disturbances.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) published a report, “LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence and COVID-19,” that compared the rates at which different groups experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, finding 44 percent for lesbians, 61 percent for bisexual women, and 35 percent for straight women. Some 54 percent of transgendered people have experienced domestic violence from a partner. These numbers are staggering and are one reason that the HRC report calls for reauthorization of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act. A reauthorized act would maintain federal protections to members of LGBTQ+ community. Another piece of proposed legislation, the Equality Act, would also help prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in federal programs and other areas of life.
For the most part, the student press and a few other alternative outlets have addressed this current crisis in LQBTQ+ communities, while establishment media remain silent or focus only on heterosexual domestic violence. One outlet, NBC News, did cover the topic, but its report did not address how the federal government could enhance protections for LGBTQ+ victims through the Violence Against Women Act.
Source: Ashley Soebroto, “SARP Reports Increase in Domestic Violence Due to Pandemic,” November 11, 2020, The Daily Free Press, https://dailyfreepress.com/2020/11/11/sarp-reports-increase-in-domestic-violence-due-to-pandemic/.
Student Researcher: Jackson Truong (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)