Domestic Violence in the age of COVID-19

Since March 2020 in many parts of the world, governments have ordered people to shelter in place (SIP) because of COVID-19. The global impact on the economy and employment is unprecedented. Businesses both large and small have been shuttered, sending employees back to live and work at home or close completely.

For most still employed this is good, people enjoy working in the safety and comfort of their own home. For those in troubling relationships, this could mean a death sentence. Emphasis is on the worst-case scenario, as the United States has seen a staggering increase of violent crime and domestic violence in the first six months of SIP.

The impacts on educational institutions are no different, children and teachers are also forced to stay in homes that may have less than desirable conditions. For some kids, going to school was an escape away from an abusive family member or a way to get the resources and nutrition necessary to study for school.

As a leader of an organization or department; whether you are a security leader, human resources professional, school administrator, business unit leader, or co-founder of a start-up you will need to understand the impact these policies have on your vulnerable population. We have outlined a simple process to identify a threat report a threat and respond to a threat.

Identifying a Threat

The first step to mitigating a potential domestic violence incident, is to identify signs of concern before an act of violence occurs. Often, domestic violence will go unreported unless there is a third party who intervenes, or the threat escalates to severe form of physical assault and law enforcement is called. With everyone sheltered in place, the normal report chain of teachers and supervisors may be difficult and go unnoticed.


Focus is on noticeable changes in behavior. For employers, you should have a good understanding of your employees’ work ethic and ability. Any noticeable performance or attendance issues should raise great concern. For teachers, this may be the first year you have these students, which puts you at a disadvantage when trying to connect and understand their deficiencies.

Absenteeism, virtual bullying, talk of suicide, vulgar language or any aggressive behavior should be documented and reported if severity deems necessary. Use your best judgment on escalating a concern over behavior, as threat managers would prefer to review any threat and rule out as negligible over not knowing a potential threat occurred.

Personal care

Many people attend Zoom (Teams, Skype, etc.) meetings in attire they would not normally wear to work or school, we all understand this. The importance of this trigger is noticing the changes that would lead someone in a direction not taking as good of care of themselves, perhaps as they once have.

Cameras on policy! Some employers and schools require cameras on to be on in meetings so that leaders can verify a few things; you are physically present, awake, engaged and well taken care of. If your policies restrict this from happening, try to set time aside with each person who is unwilling to turn on the camera, you will learn more to understand why.


Even though you are at a distance from the others on Zoom, you should hopefully have substantive communication that would allow a fair assessment on their attitude and demeanor. There are many types of personality and attitudes that would elevate concern, please be cognizant of such, document as needed or report when necessary.

Extremely negative conversations happen from time to time, depending on the scenario or that day’s current events. During COVID, it is quite common for those to air their grievances about how bad things are being handled, and how this personally impacts them.

A few triggers that should raise concerns are any discussion of suicide, mass shootings, taking out vengeance, to right a wrong against politicians or police, or anything that may seem uncharacteristic of the person making the statement.

Reporting a Threat

Reporting a concern of threat of abuse can be exceedingly difficult, depending on your current living situation. Understanding the options out there is your first step to seeking help, mitigating the threat, and moving on with your life. This section is important not only for those being abused, but also for those witnessing the abuse.

Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement across the country report calls for domestic violence are up dramatically. If a situation is about to get violent or has already become violent, law enforcement will need to be involved. Once law enforcement becomes involved in an incident, the individual being threatened now has the availability of court resources to help mitigate further concern.

Only the person being threatened can make the determination if a protection order is needed and to go through with filling and appearing in court. It is not easy, both emotionally and mentally draining for someone in this position. If this advice is given, please understand all the pros and cons involved.


The United States is filled with expert threat managers and psychologist who can help in these situations. There are also many tools out there (such as ours at that can help in making an assessment and understanding next steps and potential future concerns.

Getting expert advice and utilizing threat assessment tools will be the best first step for those that may not warrant a call to law enforcement, looking for a long-term solution for a threat that has already been escalated and those unsure about what they should be doing to keep themselves safe.


Non-profits can be a great resource for someone who is both scared and embarrassed by their current position. No one likes appearing helpless or in need of help to people close to them. Non-profits provide an outlet, education, and resources for those impacted by threats of violence.

Non-profits across the US are reporting a decrease in number of calls. With Law Enforcement reports up, this means more people are waiting until it is unbearable, or serious injury occurs before asking for help. They are waiting until it is too late, and consequences are more severe. Victims can call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 if they feel safe to do so.

Friends and Family Support

Not being present daily with co-workers can mean that an abused person may go months without someone noticing. The typical reporting process would take place when someone is forced to go to school or work and another person notice bruises or the changes in behavior.

Having a strong support system such as family and friends is key to moving away from a threatening situation, especially if it is one’s home. The knowledge that you can have a safe place and people that care will mean the difference in someone getting help, or not. Understanding this dynamic will be extremely helpful in mitigating these threats.

Responding to the Threat

This is the most sensitive part of the process and the reason you get the others involved from reporting the threat. It is imperative that the previous steps occur, prior to responding. Unless trained to do so, please seek advice from law enforcement, threat managers, psychologist, knowledgeable friends or family member, or a non-profit in your area on how to keep yourself safe with a long-term solution.

Security/law enforcement

For most people, we do not have the financial means to pay for security to constantly be present at our home and work. Unfortunately, law enforcement can not stand post near your work or home unless there is an active threat either. Understanding what long-term solutions are available will be especially important.

With advancements in technology, most people have the availability to purchase a good camera and alarm systems at a very reasonable price. The ability to monitor your home or vehicles surrounding will help a threatened person identify if there is someone snooping around, stalking, or potentially targeting them.


There are a few things that can help the transition back to a normal, non-abusive life. The subject needs to redirect to someone else, go to jail, or be deceased before the threat becomes negligible.

Unfortunately for most, this will be something that will haunt them for the rest of their life. We have a saying in threat management, the threat does not die until the person threatening dies. Even if energy is redirected, precautions and changes in behavior will be necessary.

Ongoing Support and Behavior

The victim’s behavior will need to change. They will need to alter which routes you drive to work, what times you go the gym or where you grab your morning coffee. Depending on the severity, it may be worth looking at a transfer out of the area or looking for new employment elsewhere. This is the hardest part for people to understand, if the threat is out there, precautions will need to be taken.

Long term solution to recovery is counselling, there are many providers out there for employers and schools to help with this process, if you don’t already have a program, you should start now, check out associations that specialize in this such as EASNA, or ATAP Worldwide