Violence and Abuse: A Pandemic Within a Pandemic

Paula J. Whiteman, Wendy L. Macias-Konstantopoulos, Pryanka Relan, Anita Knopov, Megan L. Ranney, Ralph J. Riviello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: During the COVID-19 pandemic, as society struggled with increasing disease burden, economic hardships, and with disease morbidity and mortality, governments and institutions began implementing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to help stop the spread of the virus. Although well-intentioned, one unintended adverse consequence was an increase in violence, abuse, and neglect. Methods: We reviewed the literature on the effect the pandemic had on domestic violence, child and elder abuse and neglect, human trafficking, and gun violence. In this paper we explore common themes and causes of this violence and offer suggestions to help mitigate risk during ongoing and future pandemics. Just as these forms of violence primarily target at-risk, vulnerable populations, so did pandemic-related violence target marginalized populations including women, children, Blacks, and those with lower socioeconomic status. This became, and remains, a public health crisis within a crisis. In early 2021, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Public Health and Injury Committee was tasked with reviewing the impact the pandemic had on violence and abuse as the result of a resolution passed at the 2020 ACEP Council meeting. Conclusion: Measures meant to help control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic had many unintended consequences and placed people at risk for violence. Emergency departments (ED), although stressed and strained during the pandemic, remain a safety net for survivors of violence. As we move out of this pandemic, hospitals and EDs need to focus on steps that can be taken to ensure they preserve and expand their ability to assist victims should another pandemic or global health crisis develop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-750
Number of pages8
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • child abuse
  • elder abuse
  • fear
  • gun violence
  • human trafficking
  • intimate partne violence
  • pandemic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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