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Rhode Island Domestic Violence and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr, 20 2020 - By: S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
Rhode Island Domestic Violence and the COVID19 Pandemic

Cases of domestic violence in Rhode Island have risen 36% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Rhode Island’s governor stated that she’s developing a comprehensive plan to fight it and protect victims of abuse. It’s not surprising that there are more domestic violence cases during challenging times. However, with the onset of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders in place, domestic violence cases are at unprecedented levels. That’s why we wanted to address the topic of domestic violence and how it’s been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Qualifies as Domestic Violence in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act lists a number of charges that are defined as ‘domestic violence’. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Assault and Battery
  • Sexual Assault
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • Burglary
  • Vandalism
  • False Imprisonment

The RI Domestic Violence Prevention Act defines an assault or abuse as “domestic” under these conditions:

  • husband/wife/spouses or former spouses
  • adult persons related by blood or marriage
  • adult persons who are presently living together (roommates) or have lived together within the past 3 years
  • people who have a child in common
  • people who are or have been engaged, or in a significant dating relationship within the past year as determined by the court, based on length and type of relationship, time/duration of the relationship, and frequency of interaction between the two individuals

Most people think that domestic violence as purely physical, but the RI Domestic Violence Prevention Act shows that some crimes go beyond physical harm, such as burglary or vandalism. Another way to understand what classifies as domestic violence is through the various categories of abuse. These categories include:

Physical Abuse:

This is the most common form of domestic abuse. Hitting, slapping, biting, punching, or kicking are all classified as physical abuse. If someone is keeping you from medical attention, this is also considered physical abuse.

Emotional Abuse:

This is when the individual seeking power uses criticism to hurt the other person. They’ll usually attack the victim’s self-esteem or self-worth. Name-calling, put-downs, and verbal attacks are all considered emotional abuse. The point is to make the victim feel worthless.

Psychological Abuse:

Psychological abuse is much like emotional abuse, but it can easily go undetected. Usually, the abuser will use fear or intimidation to control a victim. They will often threaten to hurt the victim or themselves. They might use isolation as a tool to control the victim as well. Keeping them from friends, family, work or school could be a sign of psychological abuse. Of course, throughout the pandemic, most victims are already facing mandatory isolation, making it easier for the abuser to shield family members from their support systems.

Sexual Abuse:

Coercing a partner to have sex or perform sexual acts unwillingly is classified as sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or not. Marital status doesn’t determine if an abuser can force themselves upon a victim.

Economic Abuse:

This form of abuse is carried out through financial means. This is when the abuser is trying to exert power by controlling all of the victim’s funds. They’ll often threaten to take food and shelter away or deny them the right to employment.

Some of these forms of abuse can be difficult to prove as a criminal offense under RI law. If you’re a victim of domestic abuse, you should contact the police, shelters, or other local resources for protection. You should also contact a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence assaults to explore your options.

Why There’s a Rise in Domestic Violence Cases Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we live. Mandatory stay-at-home orders are challenging for many spouses, couples, and families. In addition to forced isolation, many Rhode Island residents have lost their jobs, income, health insurance, and are even finding it difficult to buy essentials like food and water. The pandemic has also sparked a rise in alcohol consumption and drug use. When you put all of these variables together, it becomes a recipe for domestic violence. People are feeling frustrated and anxious. On top of that, there’s a lack of connection to support systems and communities. The pressure from financial hardships, drugs, alcohol, and being forced to stay at home can create a lot of conflict, and unfortunately,  violence.

Why Having a RI Lawyer Who Specializes in Domestic Violence Assaults Can Help?

If you’re dealing with a domestic violence incident, it’s important to consult with an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer. Now more than ever, people are dealing with extraordinary levels of stress, frustration, anger, and depression. This can trigger a lot of hostility in a household that can lead to abuse. When emotions are running high, you need a domestic violence lawyer that can handle the situation for you. An experienced lawyer can help you view your case from different perspectives, understand the charges, and provide a path to solutions. You don’t have to go through this challenging time alone.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime or if you’re a victim of domestic violence, you should contact a trusted Rhode Island domestic violence lawyer today to learn more about your options.

References:

http://www.ricadv.org/en/

https://turnto10.com/news/local/raimondo-works-on-comprehensive-plan-to-address-rise-in-domestic-violence-amid-pandemic

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html

https://www.courts.ri.gov/PublicResources/domesticviolenceunit/PDF/PreventionAct.pdf

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