WOMEN IN THE TRENCHES: THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES IN NASHVILLE, TN
Since the COVID-19 pandemic officially began in March 2020, risks and rates of domestic violence (DV) have unilaterally risen across the globe in correspondence with lockdown procedures. Aside from administering a singular block grant under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the U.S. federal government took little initiative to support DV victims and service providers, most of whom are women, during this time. This qualitative study explores how both this political response and the pandemic in general has impacted the operations of DV organizations, using the city of Nashville, Tennessee as a case study to represent the experiences of the country at large. Interviews conducted with eight DV workers––four from shelters, two from local government, one from a university, and one from a legal association––reveal increased demand for DV services since March 2020 yet decreased organizational capacity to provide. Disparities in victim resource access during the pandemic fall across geographic, racial, and socioeconomic divides, with technological adaptations implemented to accommodate stay-at-home orders lessening geographic barriers to care yet raising obstacles for low-income clients. Disconnect, unpreparedness, low morale, and financial concerns plague all eight organizations, reflecting broader societal patterns of U.S. policymakers disregarding women’s issues vis-à-vis underfunding and under-prioritization of DV services. Analyzed within a feminist political economy framework, participants’ negative opinions on government response indicate structural insufficiency in how the U.S. views, treats, and prevents Violence Against Women (VAW).