California has seen a significant increase in physical and sexual violence since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest California Study on Violence Experiences across the Lifespan (CalVEX) report.
The CalVEX report, which was conducted by scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, revealed that more than one in six Californians (18%) have experienced physical or sexual violence in the past year.
The public report released on Sept. 8 also found that one in every 25 Californians have experienced intimate partner violence.
CalVEX surveyed 2,285 adults across California in March and used their responses to estimate population rates.
“Californians are experiencing violence at epidemic proportions,” principal investigator Anita Raj, a professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Division of Social Sciences, said in a press release. “Current violence prevention efforts are clearly woefully inadequate and often ignore the gendered nature of violence, its intersections with other socioeconomic vulnerabilities and its disproportionate effects on marginalized populations.”
According to the report, rates of both physical and sexual violence have increased at alarming rates since the beginning of the pandemic.
Physical violence nearly doubled for men from 2020 to 2022, with men being more likely than women to have dealt with violence.
It also revealed that more than 1.1 million Californian adults were physically or sexually assaulted by their intimate partner in the past year, with women being more likely than men to have experienced various forms of sexual violence.
In the past year, more than 1.5 million Californian adults admitted to committing acts of sexual violence. Men were deemed more than two times as likely as women to report committing an act of sexual violence and intimate partner violence.
Moreover, four in five women (82%) reported experiencing mental health impacts such as anxiety or depression as a result of sexual violence. The women who reported experiencing physical violence were also twice as likely as men to miss school, work or quit a job.
The CalVEX report also noted that socially and economically vulnerable communities experienced more violence than others. This includes Latino, Black and LGBTQ-plus communities as well as people with disabilities or a history of homelessness or incarceration. Those who experience financial distress were associated with a two to eight times increased risk of violence.
“Our findings suggest the rising rates of violence are linked to the harsher social climate, economic insecurity, and poorer physical and mental health that many Californians have experienced over the last few years due to the pandemic,” Raj said.
The researchers have recommended the state to introduce new policies that strengthen economic and social safety nets, mental health services and programs in violence prevention across California. According to Raj, the multi-level approach would help address the current violence crisis and support post-pandemic rebuilding.