The stay-at-home orders across the United States and in many places worldwide are intended to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. But as the days stretch into weeks and the weeks into months, a different hazard has emerged, one that concerns researchers like Penn’s Susan B. Sorenson.
“When the governors and mayors and others were issuing the stay-at-home guidance, my antenna went up right away,” says Sorenson, director of the Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse and a professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice. “COVID-19 is a threat to health, but the danger isn’t always just in crowds. Sometimes it’s in the most intimate of spaces.”
Sorenson is referring to intimate partner violence, a subject she has studied for decades. Though we likely won’t know the pandemic’s full effect on this for years, data are already showing spikes as people who might previously have been able to limit exposure to an abusive partner are now required to shelter in place with that person.
Around the world, reports of domestic violence have increased, according to statistics released by the United Nations. France, Argentina, Cyprus, and Singapore, for example, have experienced at least 25% more calls of this kind in the past month, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a plea for the world to pay attention, one echoed on Monday by Pope Francis.
Penn Today spoke with Sorenson about new challenges surrounding intimate partner violence in the era of COVID-19 and about the uptick in gun purchases since this crisis began.