Payson has suffered the same rise in domestic violence during the pandemic that has plagued the nation — and the world.
Payson police saw a 13% increase in domestic violence calls in 2020, according to the just released crime statistics.
Police made 201 arrests for domestic violence in 2020, compared to 178 in 2019. That’s likely only the brutal edge of the problem, since the overwhelming majority of domestic violence incidents go unreported, according to national studies.
Perhaps a third of people who suffer domestic violence get treatment for their injuries, according to the National Coalition for Domestic Violence, based on national studies and estimates. In 2018, domestic violence accounted for an estimated 20% of all violent crimes. Moreover, domestic violence remains the most dangerous call for police to answer.
The rise in cases both nationally and locally comes as Congress moves to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act, which increases funding for domestic violence shelters and other responses. Payson has the only domestic violence shelter in the county, which offers shelter to women from all over the region. The shelter has faced an increase in demands for assistance in the past year, but has struggled to find the volunteers and resources needed.
The Violence Against Women Act has passed the House, but faces opposition in the Senate, where some Republicans have objected to some provisions — including protections for gay and transgender people and tighter restrictions on access to firearms for people convicted of domestic violence or subject to an order of protection. The bill would also give tribal courts more authority to prosecute domestic violence and sex trafficking by non-tribal members on the reservation.
Experts say an increase in domestic violence during the pandemic makes sense, given the combination of financial and emotional stress with families trapped at home during shutdowns for weeks or months at a time.
Domestic violence reports have spiked all over the world, according to a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Incidents of domestic violence treated in emergency rooms increased 300% in Hubei, China, 25% in Argentina, 30% in Cyprus, 33% in Singapore and 50% in Brazil.
In the U.S., police have reported an 18% increase in San Antonio, 22% in Portland and 10% in New York City, according to a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
In addition, X-rays and scans for wounds consistent with domestic abuse doubled from March to May of last year compared to the same period the year before, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.
“The study confirms what we suspected, study co-author Mardi Chadwick Balcom commented. “Being confined to home for a period of time would increase the possibility for violence between intimate partners,” according to a summary of the research on the WebMD website.
Calls to domestic violence hotlines in the U.S. have increased by roughly 15% during the pandemic.
Experts say that domestic violence thrives in the conditions created by the pandemic, which combined financial and emotional stress with intense social isolation.
The surge in domestic violence reports has lent a certain urgency to the congressional effort to renew the Violence Against Women Act, which first passed in 1994 but which lapsed in 2019.
The House voted 244 to 172 to renew the act. Rep. Paul Gosar, who represents Rim Country, voted against renewing the act, according to a vote tally online (https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/2019156). Rep. Tom O’Halleran voted in favor. He represents much of northeastern Arizona.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Republicans and Democrats each have 50 votes. The bill would need 60 votes to pass, if Republicans decide to filibuster.
Most of the bill remains non-controversial. It provides housing assistance for abuse victims, provides legal protections for victims and their families, provides additional resources — especially in minority communities — and provides grants and assistance for shelters and domestic violence hotlines.
However, several efforts to add elements to the bill have prompted Republican opposition.
For instance, the bill would tighten access to firearms for people with convictions for violent crimes or those subject to a court order — like an order of protection. Gun rights advocates have said that judges can issue orders of protection without a full court hearing and that doesn’t provide enough protection for the constitutional right to bear arms — even if the removal of a gun is temporary, pending a full hearing.
The effort to restrict access to guns in domestic violence cases comes in response to studies showing a woman in a domestic violence situation is five times more likely to be murdered if there’s a gun in the house.
The bill would also give tribal courts more authority to prosecute non-Indians on the reservation for sex trafficking, sexual violence and stalking. That provision comes in response to a plague of violence directed against Native American women, who are more than twice as likely to suffer sexual or physical violence as white women. Under current law, tribal courts have no jurisdiction over non-tribal members even on the reservation.
Republicans generally supported the portion of the bill providing additional resources to combat domestic violence, but objected to the added provisions. During a floor debate, some Republicans claimed the bill was a Trojan horse for a “far-left political agenda” that included recognition of gay and transgender rights and gun control.
The 2013 version of the bill included provisions banning discrimination based on gender and gender identity for agencies that received funding. The new bill included that provision.
A proposal to renew the bill for a year without any new provisions to allow for more time to negotiate failed on a vote of 177 to 249. The House then adopted the bill with a bipartisan majority. However, the bill will likely not fare as well in the Senate, currently convulsed by a growing debate about whether to end the practice of the filibuster — which allows a senator to require a 60-vote supermajority for passage of almost any measure simply by declaring his or her opposition.