GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While the prevalence of domestic violence remained the same in Michigan during the early pandemic, the abuse people were experiencing was worse, researchers at the University of Michigan found.

The researchers surveyed a diverse group of 1,169 women, transgender people and nonbinary people in Michigan in the summer of 2020, the study says.

While they found that around 1 in 7 of Michigan women, trans people and nonbinary people experienced violence from an intimate partner — similar to pre-pandemic levels — 1 in 10 saw “new, more frequent or more severe violence,” a Feb. 8 U of M release said.

Multiple factors made people more likely to experience that level of violence, like being economically vulnerable, housing unstable, trans or nonbinary or living with six or more people. Essential workers were twice as likely to see new or worse violence, the study found, and one-third of pregnant women and one-fourth of people with toddlers saw new or worse violence.


Eighty-six percent of those who tested positive for COVID-19 during the early weeks of the pandemic saw new or worse violence, the study found.

Intimate partner violence and COVID-19 could be “mutually reinforcing one another,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Those who got a COVID-19 test, regardless of the results, were also more likely to see new or worse violence.

“We found that new or increased (intimate partner violence) was nearly three times more common among those who had received a COVID test than those who had not,” the researchers wrote.

“There is clearly some interaction between this COVID pandemic and this pandemic of intimate partner violence,” study co-author Sarah Peitzmeier, an assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing and School of Public Health, said in the release.


“It’s important to look at these results and remember that even if the prevalence of women and trans people experiencing domestic violence did not increase, there are still 1 in 10 women and trans people who are seeing more severe or increased domestic abuse,” Peitzmeier said in the release. “We have to focus on, ‘How do we help these people?’”

One thing the study suggested was to offer resources along with a positive COVID-19 test, if they can be done both privately and safely.

Policies like an eviction moratorium and subsidies for rent and child care could also help, Peitzmeier said.

“We can donate our time, money or other resources to local organizations serving domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, recognizing that many domestic violence shelters and social service providers have faced budget cuts during the pandemic while the need for services has only increased,” she said in the release.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can reach the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline by calling 1.800.799.7233.