NEW ORLEANS – The United Nations referred to domestic violence as “the shadow pandemic” during COVID-19 lockdowns as rates across the country spiked to record levels.
Now, three years later, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) says the number of victims remains concerning.
“We are still experiencing a really high contact volume at the National Domestic Violence Hotline,” said CEO Katie Ray-Jones. “About a 25% increase in contact volume.”
In New Orleans, the recent death of a young mother – allegedly by her former boyfriend – has led city leaders and residents to demand more help for victims.
In May, Asia Davis, 28, was found run over and shot to death. Her boyfriend, 44-year-old Henry Talley Jr., is now facing a second-degree murder charge.
He was previously convicted of murder for the killing of a 12-year-old boy in 1996 and received a life sentence, but was released two years ago following a Supreme Court decision that deemed life sentences for juveniles unconstitutional.
“She was a very vibrant, life of the party type of girl,” said Asia’s mother, Kenya Davis. “She touched the lives of so many people around her.”
Kenya says her daughter tried to break up with Talley Jr.
“He didn’t want to let her go,” Kenya said. “We didn’t know more was going on.”
Asia’s story is likely happening behind closed doors in hundreds of thousands of homes across the country as NCADV statistics report nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S.
“On any given day, we can see anywhere around 3,000 contacts coming into the organization,” Ray-Jones said.
The American Journal of Emergency Medicine said that domestic violence cases increased by 25% to 33% globally from 2020 to 2021 – the first year of the pandemic.
“Many companies are still doing at-home work or hybrid work and so many employees are still working at home with their abusive partner,” Ray-Jones said, adding that calls to the hotline have not slowed down.
The CEO also believes reporting has increased because more women are learning there are resources available that can help them.
“There’s been a lot of increased awareness about domestic violence,” Ray-Jones said. “Google even launched a new search feature to make finding resources more accessible.”
The national police officer shortage and slower response times in some cities is another concern. Asia’s mother said her daughter called the New Orleans Police Department on two separate occasions to report domestic violence before she was killed.
“The first time she called it was like 6 p.m. that evening and they didn’t show up until 5 a.m. the next morning, and they labeled it ‘gone on arrival,'” Kenya said. “It was 12 hours later.”
Officers will mark a call as “gone on arrival” if the suspect or caller is no longer there when police arrive at the scene.
“It is hard for us to have victims take us seriously when we do not prioritize their safety by thinking a 12-hour response time on a domestic violence complaint is acceptable,” New Orleans City Council President J.P. Morrell said during a May meeting.
In a statement, the New Orleans Police Department said domestic violence calls are high priority, adding that the first available officer was dispatched both times Asia called, but received no answer at the door.
Now focusing on raising Asia’s 6-year-old daughter, Kenya said doesn’t have time to dwell on what she can’t change.
“She knows her mother’s gone,” Kenya said. “I have to be strong for my grandchild.”