Measuring the Impact of Coronavirus on Reported Rates of Domestic Violence

There has been much media coverage on the impact of stay-at-home orders on crime rates throughout the United States and worldwide. In an analysis of crime data in Chicago and Los Angeles, we find a significant decrease in overall crimes in both cities (32% in Chicago and 16% in LA) since each area’s emergency declarations were put in place.

One area of concern during the stay-at-home orders relates to domestic violence, where it would seem victims are now more confined to a residence with their abuser and less able to seek the help they need. Yet, despite a nationwide increase in calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline since mid-March, there has been a statistically significant decrease in the reported domestic violence incidents in Chicago and LA—by 19% and 11%, respectively.1 Domestic violence experts indicate that one reason for the decrease is because victims are unable to safely find the space and privacy to report incidents.2

Our analysis uses data made publicly available by the cities of Chicago and Los Angeles on daily crime reports in each city through May 31.3 A regression analysis is run on daily counts of reported domestic violence incidents, controlling for relevant factors like year, month, day of week, and neighborhood. In Chicago, since the disaster proclamation on March 10, there have been 8,089 reported domestic violence incidents, in contrast to the model prediction of 9,997 expected incidents. Chicago has seen 1,908 fewer incidents (19%) reported than expected. In Los Angeles, since the state of emergency on March 4, there have been 3,311 reported domestic violence incidents, in contrast to the model prediction of 3,736 expected incidents. LA has seen 425 fewer incidents (11%) reported than expected.

The below figures show actual domestic violence crime reports in each city in comparison to what our model would predict without the influence of Covid-19 stay-at-home orders. A sudden and drastic decrease in reported incidents is obvious upon each city’s emergency declaration in mid-March.

It is well documented that domestic violence incidents often go unreported, so there is typically a gap between reported and actual incidents.4 Our finding of a statistically significant decrease in reported domestic violence incidents indicates that this gap has widened during the current stay-at-home policies.

For more information on how to help, please visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). NCADV’s mission is “to lead, mobilize and raise our voices to support efforts that demand a change of conditions that lead to domestic violence such as patriarchy, privilege, racism, sexism, and classism. We are dedicated to supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable and supporting advocates.”


  3. Though other cities release crime data and/or statistics, Chicago and Los Angeles both release robust current crime data that allows a user to identify domestic incidents.
  4. Gracia E. Unreported cases of domestic violence against women: towards an epidemiology of social silence, tolerance, and inhibition. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2004


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