The news media’s reporting on a pandemic spike in violence against women. It might actually be declining.
Over the past weeks, news stories have reported increased calls to domestic violence hotlines around the world.]] The United Nations Secretary General called for action against a “horrifying global surge” in gender violence. But does an increase in reporting mean that violence against women has increased?Researchers don’t know. Clearly, the covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating some factors that can increase the likelihood of gender and sexual violence in the short term, including job loss, trauma, and alcohol abuse. But people who study violence generally document the prevalence of violence through surveys that involve asking women specific questions, ideally during private interviews. Without those, we can’t be sure what those hotline and police calls tell us, as they may bear little relation to levels of violence. In New York City, for example, reports of domestic violence have dropped during the pandemic, even as arrests and police calls in the rest of New York state and other parts of the country have risen.In fact, increases in reporting usually mean more women feel they can seek help, not more violence. Almost everywhere, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, and other crimes against women are under-reported. When we see more women reporting, that usually points to