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caption: Police officers stand in front of the Spirit Halloween store across the street from the Hyatt Regency where hundreds gathered to protest Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Friday, October 13, 2017, in Bellevue.
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Police officers stand in front of the Spirit Halloween store across the street from the Hyatt Regency where hundreds gathered to protest Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Friday, October 13, 2017, in Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

King County has already seen 13 domestic violence homicides in 2020

King County has seen an uptick in the number and severity of domestic violence cases since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March.

The number of domestic violence homicides in the county has nearly doubled since last year, with 13 people dead as of September 30.

All but one of those local deaths have occured since Washingtonians were first ordered to stay home in March, following the declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bellevue Police Department reports a 28% increase in felony domestic violence cases amid coronavirus. While the number of cases this year has remained on par with the city's five-year average, the level of violence committed has increased.

Social distancing measures have amplified two key factors linked to an increased risk of abuse: isolation and a lack of income.

"These situations are more dangerous for the victims; the injuries are more severe,” said Bellevue Police Major Travess Forbush in a written statement.

One of those cases involves a 30-year-old man, Andrew Allen Brown, who was charged with second-degree murder after admitting to stabbing his parents to death during their visit from Houston.

As of August 31, the King County Prosecutor's Office has filed 30 felony domestic violence cases occurring in Bellevue this year.

The Seattle Police Department has also pointed to a concerning, upward trend in domestic violence reports since the pandemic got underway. The department saw a 21% increase within the first month of mandatory social distancing orders.

The recent upswing, however, isn't just local — it's global.

The United Nations in June outlined significant jumps — as high as 40% in some places— in the number of calls placed to domestic abuse helplines in countries including Australia, Singapore, Cyprus. The organization also cited large spikes in the number of domestic violence cases seen in France and Argentina amid mandated social distancing.

RELATED: During isolation, Seattle police see increased domestic violence reports

In Washington state, advocates have also pointed to concern that child abuse and neglect is even more underreported now that kids aren't attending school — a place where other adults could intervene — in-person.

Data from the state Department of Children, Youth and Families show there was a 32% decrease in the number of calls yielding child abuse investigations.

"We are seeing a sharp increase in the frequency and severity of abuse endured by survivors and their children, including more serious injuries and higher lethality indicators, including more threats with firearms and strangulation,” said Rachel Krinsky, executive director of the King County-based domestic abuse survivor support organization LifeWire.

“We are receiving a significant increase in the number of requests for protection orders and an exponential increase in requests for rental assistance and food assistance,” Krinsky added.

King County in March launched a digital alternative to filing civil protection order petitions in-person. Individuals can now remotely fill out an online form and email it to to DJA.DVPO@kingcounty.gov.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse and is in need of support can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. There is also help available via online chatting at thehotline.org.

Additionally, King and Snohomish counties offer text-to-9-1-1 services to individuals who cannot safely place a voice call, or who may have a disability preventing them from placing a phone call.