The Impact of Coronavirus and Shelter-in-Place Orders on Domestic Violence Victims in Florida

Though most of Florida has begun reopening and the shelter-in-place period passed, things are not as they were before. The impacts of the pandemic have been wide-ranging, but have been keenly felt by victims of domestic abuse. For many, the shelter-in-place period may have added additional stress and increased the frequency and/or severity of the abuse while, at the same time, taken away opportunities (like school or work) to reach out for help. Despite these extraordinary conditions, it is essential to recognize that the courts and law offices are still open and that, if you need help, help is available to you. A skilled South Florida family law attorney can be your vital lifeline to the courts and protective orders, along with other resources to enhance your safety.

Sources across the state and the country have been trying to get the word out: just because the number of domestic violence calls during the shelter-in-place period didn’t go up (or in some places went down,) that isn’t necessarily a cause for celebration. Research shows that introducing the conditions we’ve just experienced tends to increase incidents of domestic violence. You have an added element of financial insecurity for many families. You have many primary earners who have lost their jobs. You also have families confined at home together for extended periods, including wage-earners who are used to working outside the home and for whom remaining at home for weeks on end is completely outside their established routines. All of this is a recipe for increased domestic violence.

ABC News reported that authorities in California were greatly concerned by the low number of domestic violence calls during the “lockdown” period, fearing that the low number meant that a vast number of victims were suffering violence but unable to seek help. Closer to home, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office in Tampa launched the “We Are Open” campaign to encourage victims to reach out. Much like the California authorities, authorities in Tampa feared that victims were still suffering violence, probably at increased rates, but were fearful to ask for help, WMNF reported. Victims may have encountered many problems, including an inability to secure a private place to make contact, a fear of the effects of the virus if they left their home, or a fear (often falsely instilled by their abusers) that they would be arrested by the police if they left their homes during the shelter-in-place period.

The truth is that, here in South Florida, the courts are still open and available to you, as is legal representation. By mid-April, courts such as the 17th Circuit, which covers Broward County, were conducting domestic violence injunction hearings via the internet conferencing platform Zoom, according to a report from the Florida Bar. Domestic violence groups have also worked to introduce new and innovative solutions like text-message and online live chat hotlines, along with emergency shelter options that limit exposure to the virus, according to NBC News.

In addition to those vital resources, the legal representation you need in your domestic violence case is available, and can be accessed by a variety of means. The diligent and determined team of South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can be reached by calling (800) 596-0579. If you are unable to reach out by telephone but do have access to a computer, you can contact us online through our website. Reach out today to put the power of this office to work in helping you to protect yourself and your family.