Advocates and law enforcement officials in Baton Rouge, LA., say the pandemic played a major role in the dramatic spike in the parishes domestic violence deaths, reports The Advocate. Isolated at home with their abusers, victims struggled to survive in increasingly dangerous and volatile situations where violence became more frequent or escalated more quickly. “It’s been a bad year,” said Mariah Wineski, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “What COVID did is create the perfect environment for domestic violence to flourish.” Violent crimes related to domestic violence have increased significantly.
Baton Rouge Police Department’s major assaults division reported that 309 out of 739 total cases were the result of domestic violence — approximately 42%. The death toll includes girlfriends, mothers, law enforcement officials, and toddlers. While the tally of domestic violence misdemeanors was similar to 2019, a vast number were underreported because victims were stuck behind closed doors with their abusers, limiting their ability to contact authorities. According to Melanie Fields, a domestic violence prosecutor, disputes between an abuser and a victim that turn violent often involve allegations of cheating, usually originating with a cell phone. 2020 added a layer of stress when the first round of stimulus checks showed up and the fight over who the money belonged to and how it should be spent often resulted in violence, Fields said. These breaking points played out in the end-of-year statistics.