'Cabin Fever' in Frigid Temps May Cause Uptick in Domestic, Pet Abuse

'Cabin Fever' in Frigid Temps May Cause Uptick in Domestic, Pet Abuse

As record-low and deadly temperatures swept across much of the nation this week, there were fewer crimes reported on the streets of big cities like Chicago, but authorities indicated that there may be increases in the number of domestic abuse claims. 

When the weather gets frigid, “cabin fever” may make people–and even pets–more prone to abuse if they are living in cramped spaces with people who have a history of such violence.

Bonnie Bucqueroux used to worry her husband would beat her every time the weather turned cold. 

“He was a heavy drinker and often I found myself in a bad situation, trapped in our trailer with not enough money for a phone,” she told ABC News. “One snowy evening, I walked into the kitchen just to try and sweep up the floor. I didn’t know he had crept up behind me. For some reason, he grabbed me and threw me across the room, bouncing me off the cabinets. He kicked me and threw me out in the snow and locked the door.”

This was in 1962, and Bucqueroux is now 69, widowed, teaches at Michigan State University, and was the former executive director of the Michigan Victim Alliance.

Bucqueroux “also advises that pet abuse can be a problem in bad weather” since “abusers are also the ones who kick the dog.” Bucqueroux said incidents of domestic abuse due to “cabin fever” are underreported because victims, like herself, are often too ashamed to say anything. She said stress levels can peak when people living together are young and poor. 

According to ABC, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) “has reported a high number of calls in December and so far in January, when storms and cold kicked in.” In addition, RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline usage was up 20 percent since the fall.