Originally published in The Forefront, 9/2/2021

As resources for people experiencing domestic violence in Chicago’s South Side dwindled during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home order, so did reporting of violence within the home, according to new research published in JAMA Network Open.

While it’s likely that cases of intimate partner violence, along with other types of violence in the home, did not actually decrease, researchers found that Black communities reported fewer cases of violence to police. In contrast, there was no significant change in reporting among White majority neighborhoods on Chicago’s North Side.

“Recently, nationwide awareness of police brutality against communities of color increased,” said study first author and third-year University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine student Louisa Baidoo. “We hypothesize that an increased reticence of Black communities to call the police, combined with a stark reduction of resources to get help, led to this underreporting of domestic violence.”

According to the researchers, domestic violence tends to increase during times of stress. Scholars theorize it may be linked to negative coping mechanisms. This seems especially likely given the context of the pandemic, when more people are experiencing prolonged contact with abusers alongside financial stressors. This is occurring as emergency and community resources have been overwhelmed.

“When we started this, we expected to see reporting of domestic violence increase,” said study senior author and UChicago Medicine Assistant Professor of Medicine Elizabeth Tung, MD, MS. “Instead, we saw this paradoxical drop in reporting in Black communities. Unfortunately, we realized it made a lot of sense given the current reality of policing and mistrust in communities of color.”

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