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Rantz: Domestic violence homicides soar with coronavirus mandates

File photo. (Tony Webster, Flickr)

The unintended consequences of Governor Jay Inslee’s coronavirus mandates continue to pile up, this time with an alarming increase in domestic violence homicides.

King County has seen at least 13 domestic violence homicides this year, 12 of which occurred during the pandemic. That compares to seven for all of 2019. These stats don’t include Seattle, which doesn’t break down homicides by domestic violence. However, the Seattle Police Department reported two domestic violence homicides so far just this month.

There doesn’t appear to be much that Inslee’s office is doing to address the violence in any meaningful way.

Surge in domestic violence homicides

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but few politicians seem to be paying attention. Instead, advocates are sounding alarms.

“The numbers are startling,” Colleen McIngalls, director of victim services at the King County Prosecutor’s Office, told KING 5. “When we hear, you know, see data that’s confirming the increased rates of homicide with domestic violence, specifically around COVID, it just reiterates the importance of our work.”

Earlier this month, there were two tragic instances of deadly domestic violence in Seattle.

A 58-year-old man allegedly stabbed his 44-year-old ex-wife in the University District on Oct. 8. Five days later, in Northgate, police arrested a 17-year-old for the stabbing death of his mother.

With violence on the rise, we know we need more police in Seattle. That will be difficult in a city where hating cops has become a city council sport. But something that can be done in approaching the domestic violence trend is to safely reopen our economy.

Relaxing mandates can save lives

The stricter the mandates, the harder it is for people in abusive relationships — physical, emotional, or both — to escape their tormenter. Safely reopening businesses doesn’t merely stimulate the economy. It can save someone’s life.

It’s not just about getting away from an abuser, even if just for a few hours a day. When a victim is with friends or coworkers, they might pick up on their verbal or nonverbal cues that something is wrong. They check in, ask questions, and the victim may speak up and get the assistance they need.

Getting back to work and reopening the economy always helps deliver a type of financial independence that can make escaping an abusive relationship easier. It also gives you alternative spaces to stay. According to the New England Journal of Medicine:

… the financial entanglement with an abusive partner is too convoluted to sever without an alternative source of economic support. The pandemic has exacerbated financial entanglement by causing increased job loss and unemployment, particularly among women of color, immigrants, and workers without a college education. The public health restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the virus have also reduced access to alternative sources of housing: shelters and hotels have reduced their capacity or shut down, and travel restrictions have limited people’s access to safe havens.

The consequences of keeping the economy closed are adding up.

Consequences of closures

It’s not just about domestic abuse victims suffering. Children are suffering during all of this, too.

While school-aged children are at the lowest risk of suffering from the coronavirus, they’re being kept from in-person learning. There are consequences to being kept from socializing. Some of it has to do with retention. In-person learning is far superior to remote learning. But adolescents who are isolated have a higher risk at experiencing depression or even suicide.

Young adults, 18-24, are also experiencing the mental health consequences. According to the CDC, 25% of the demographic had thoughts of suicide during the pandemic.

Uncomfortably political? That’s not the intent

There’s a very compelling reason to reopen the economy in a safe way. But unfortunately, Inslee continues to show reluctance. In fact, he’s becoming more strict in his mandates while refusing to call a special legislative session so our representatives can weigh in and shape policy.

This is an issue that is inherently political. I’ve definitely called out some of the governor’s inexplicably non-scientific nor data-driven ideas, but this particular issue transcends politics and my intent is not to blame Inslee for the rise of domestic violence. It is my intent to point out some of the consequences of these mandates. The governor wants to prevent the spread of COVID. That’s a noble cause. But at some point, it is worth considering if that fight is causing bigger concerns.

If you’re critical of Inslee’s mandates, he’ll accuse you of wanting to kill grandma by giving others the coronavirus. It’s a juvenile retort, of course. But surely we can care about grandma and every other victims of the consequences of the mandates.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook.

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