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Domestic violence reports may be rising

Considering current events, some people have wondered whether domestic violence reports are on the rise. After all, families are spending a great deal more time together than they are accustomed to doing. At the same time, anti-domestic violence activists worry that victims may lack a realistic way to call for help because they may always be in their abusers' presence.

The nonprofit Marshall Project took a deep dive into the numbers to determine whether domestic violence reports are increasing. There have been some news reports claiming that this has happened, but they largely rely on anecdotal evidence and fragments of data.

Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies rarely release data on police reports and arrests in a timely fashion, says the Marshall Project. The data gets published months or even a year after the events. That makes tracking crime trends difficult in the short term.

Moreover, few law enforcement agencies specifically flag domestic violence in their statistics. In fact, the Marshall Project reviewed data from over 40 cities and found only three that flag domestic violence allegations in their public data. Those cities were Chicago, Austin, Texas, and Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix.

The data indicate a possible uptick in domestic violence

The nonprofit cautions that shelter-in-place orders, as as well as record unemployment and the corresponding economic stress, may indeed exacerbate violence in some relationships. Several such factors may make alleged victims less likely than usual to report domestic violence to the police. And, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, alleged victims already only report these incidents about half of the time.

If alleged victims are discouraged from calling, a drop in reports might not indicate an actual drop in the number of domestic violence incidents.

On the other hand, with more people at home, more neighbors could be in a position to report incidents of suspected domestic violence. That could drive up reports without actually representing more incidents.

The Marshall Project examined public crime data from Chicago, Austin, and Chandler from early March through mid-April. What it found was interesting: Crime overall has been waning during the shelter-in-place period. However, while domestic violence reports have also been declining, they have been doing so at a slower rate than crime overall.

For example, in Chicago total crime reports were down 42% between March 8 and April 12, the period studied. Domestic violence reports were down only 23%. This was essentially the case in Austin and Chandler, as well.

Moreover, although the rate at which domestic violence was reported to police is lower, the number of reports claiming severe conduct, such as strangulation, appears not to have declined.

And, although the Chicago police don't make data from 911 calls public online, a spokesperson for the department's domestic violence operations said that domestic-violence-related 911 calls are up as much as 13% over this time last year. More 911 calls could indicate increases in the number of incidents even if the police report rate is down. In other words, people might not be following through on their 911 calls by filing police reports.

Accused of domestic violence? You need a criminal defense attorney

Whether it is in fact rising during this volatile period, domestic violence is a real problem in society. However, there are situations in which domestic violence allegations may be false or exaggerated. Although many victims are telling the truth, it's simply not the case that all are. Additionally, if the police are called for a domestic violence situation, which may have been a misunderstanding between two people, the police are still likely to make an arrest of the person determined to be the aggressor.

A conviction for domestic violence can have serious, long-term consequences in your life. Talk to an experienced attorney right away about any allegations against you.

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