Stay-at-home order leads to domestic violence spike

SEATTLE — While millions in Washington state are staying home to stay safe from COVID-19, home is anything but safe for victims of domestic violence.

According to the King County Prosecutor’s office, domestic violence crimes accounted for 34% of the Superior Court case load over the past month.

During the same time last year, DV crimes accounted for 22%.

The county typically prosecutes approximately 150 felony-level domestic violence cases per month.

However, as COVID-19 spread throughout King County in March of 2020, the prosecutor’s office filed 186 felony-level domestic violence cases; a multi-year high, according to David Martin.

“There’s more violence and there’s a lot of frustration and anxiety, and the stay-at-home orders are potentially difficult for victims who are living with an abusive partner,” the Chair of the Domestic Violence Unit said during a video conference Wednesday.

“Being inside together for a longer period of time increases opportunity for abuse and control,” Martin added.

While stay-at-home orders are meant to flatten the curve of COVID 19, King County is working to flatten the spike in domestic violence by encouraging victims to use the courts remotely.

Colleen McIngalls of King County’s Protection Order Advocacy Program said staff members in her office have been “working really hard to maintain access to justice for victims and survivors of domestic violence,” even though the court itself is closed.

And suspected domestic abusers are still being arrested.

Within the past 24 hours, ten domestic violence suspects were booked into King County’s two jails and five new felony charges were filed.

“This is not a time-out where we’re not going to help people, in fact we know that isolation can make things worse. And we want people to know there is help available,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said during the video conference. “Yes, stay home. But if home is not safe then do ask for help.”

Click here for more information on the online protection order.

Click here for resources from National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Click here for resources from the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Washington Domestic Violence Programs

Community Collected Resources in Response to Covid-19

Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress

Consejo’s Sexual Assault Program