During normal times, individuals and families spend at least some part of their days away from each other, whether that is at work or at school. But during the COVID-19 crisis, restrictions on movement have forced families to hunker down in close proximity for extended periods of time. These types of living situations can be difficult and cause tempers to flare, particularly given the stress and anxiety surrounding the crisis. For some families, however, being trapped in a house for extended periods of time with certain individuals can become dangerous if domestic violence is an issue. Below is an overview of the COVID-19 crisis’ effect on domestic violence and the legal options available to those who suffer it. For more information on any topic herein, please contact an Alpharetta family lawyer

COVID-19-Related Lockdowns Have Increased Domestic Violence Incidents

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that COVID-19-related lockdowns have led to an increase in domestic violence incidents. Sociologists report that domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as during summer vacation, over the holidays, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to United Nations estimates, cases of domestic violence have increased worldwide since the lockdowns began when judging by the volume of calls to domestic violence hotlines. For example, calls increased by 40% in New South Wales in Australia, 30% in France, and 25% in Argentina since lockdowns began. The situation is even more dramatic in the United Kingdom, where calls, emails, and website visits to Respect, that country’s national domestic violence charity, have increased 97%,185%,  and 581%, respectively. The problem likely is even more widespread than the data suggest, as only about 40% of women who experience domestic violence seek help or report the crime. 

What Is Domestic Violence? 

Just as every relationship is different, domestic violence also looks different in different contexts. In many cases, especially early on in a relationship, it is not easy to tell whether the relationship will eventually become abusive. Abusive behaviors do not appear overnight but tend to develop slowly and escalate over the course of the relationship. Some of the most common categories and types of domestic violence are outlined below. 

Physical Abuse

  • Punching, slapping, kicking, hitting, or hair-pulling
  • Forbidding the victim from eating or sleeping
  • Preventing the victim from seeking medical attention 
  • Harming the victim’s children or pets
  • Abandoning the victim in an unfamiliar location
  • Forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol

Emotional Abuse

  • Insulting the victim 
  • Becoming jealous or possessive of the victim
  • Isolating the victim from family and friends
  • Monitoring the victim’s movements
  • Demanding to know where the victim is at all times
  • Forbidding the victim from leaving the house
  • Withholding affection from the victim
  • Threatening harm to the victim or the victim’s children or pets
  • Damaging the victim’s property
  • Gaslighting the victim
  • Controlling the victim’s appearance 
  • Accusing the victim of cheating 
  • Blaming the victim for the abuse 

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing the victim to dress in a certain way
  • Forcing or manipulating the victim into performing sex acts
  • Holding the victim down during sex
  • Acting in a sexually aggressive manner toward the victim
  • Involving other individuals in sexual acts against the victim’s will
  • Forcing the victim to watch pornography
  • Insulting the victim in a sexual manner
  • Purposefully attempting to pass a sexually transmitted infection to the victim

These are just a few examples of domestic violence. If you think you may be the victim of domestic violence, you may want to consider contacting an Alpharetta family lawyer who can help you to stop it. 

Protective Orders for Domestic Abuse Victims

There are a variety of legal options available to domestic abuse victims that are designed to protect the victim from the abuser, but one of the most common is a family violence protective order. 

Anyone over the age of 18 in Georgia can file a petition for a family violence protective order. To do so, the petitioner must file a petition with their local Superior Court that “alleges with specific facts that probable cause exists to establish that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future.” The court may then issue a temporary ex parte order (more commonly known as a “temporary restraining order”) to protect the victim before his or her court date if it believes the victim is in immediate danger. This temporary ex parte order remains in effect for 30 days. During that time, the court will schedule a hearing at which the petitioner must prove the allegations contained in the petition by a preponderance of the evidence.

At the hearing, both the petitioner and the respondent (i.e., the alleged abuser) have a chance to tell their sides of the story. If the petitioner proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is the victim of domestic abuse, the court will issue the family violence protective order. The court can do several things in this order, including:  

  • Directing the respondent to refrain from certain acts
  • Granting one party possession of the resident and excluding the other party 
  • Requiring one party to provide alternative housing for another party 
  • Awarding temporary custody of minor children and establishing temporary visitation rights
  • Ordering the eviction of a party from the residence so that the victim may return to it
  • Ordering either party to make payments for the support of minor children
  • Ordering either party to make payments for the support of a spouse
  • Providing for the possession of personal property of the parties (including vehicles) 
  • Ordering the respondent to refrain from harassing or interfering with the victim
  • Awarding costs and attorney’s fees to either party
  • Ordering the respondent to undergo appropriate psychological care to prevent the recurrence of family violence

Family violence protective orders remain in effect for up to one year but may be extended for up to three years.

Contact an Alpharetta Family Lawyer for Help

If you are the victim of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic or any other time, an attorney can help you put a stop to it. For more information, please contact an Alpharetta family lawyer at Hait & Kuhn by using our online form or calling us at either of our metro Atlanta locations: Alpharetta (770-517-0045) or Woodstock (678-888-0198).