After trending downward for years, cases of domestic violence in Tarrant County have shot up since the pandemic began. Since March, 17 people have died in the county because of domestic violence, representing a 112% increase over last year.

In the early days of the pandemic, experts warned the crisis would cause an increase in domestic violence. In May, Kathryn Jacob, SafeHaven of Tarrant County president and CEO, spoke with The Shorthorn. At the time, she feared county jails releasing more offenders on bond to avoid overcrowding would increase the severity of domestic violence. Calls to the nonprofit were escalating at the time.

It seems experts’ warnings went unheard, and now people are dead as a result. These deaths happened because our government and society failed to protect some of our community’s most vulnerable individuals.

According to The New York Times, incidents of domestic violence have been on the rise worldwide in a trend government officials should have seen coming.

Many domestic violence hotlines experienced a decrease in calls after the pandemic began, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. This is because victims are trapped with their abusers and unable to safely contact outside services for help. Many advocates cite increased hardships associated with the pandemic as contributors to escalated violence.

It’s time to reevaluate which accused offenders get to post bail early. It’s time to pour more resources into domestic violence prevention centers and public education about domestic violence. Members of the community must take a more active role in identifying and reporting these cases.

Some could say there is only so much our government could do to prevent these deaths. The decision to let people post bail more quickly was made to prevent jails from becoming COVID-19 hotspots. It is also true that local officials had to make tough decisions after the pandemic began to spread locally, and there is nothing leaders can do to completely stop domestic violence. But these deaths could’ve been reduced by simple actions that city officials didn’t take.

In the end, these deaths were senseless, and some could have been prevented altogether. Our government and society must prioritize the health and safety of domestic violence victims, or the death count will keep rising.

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Spencer Brewer; Editor-in-Chief Shay Cohen; news editor Angelica Perez; Cecilia Lenzen, life and entertainment editor; sports editor Chris Amaya; David Silva Ramirez, life and entertainment reporter; and copy editor Andrew Walter. Lenzen was not present for this editorial decision, and news reporter Katecey Harrell filled in.

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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