“Stay home, stay safe!” – this is what the year 2020 is preaching us. Unfortunately, contrary to general perception, not everyone cooped within their homes is safe. No, we aren’t referring to the deadly coronavirus that has led human lives around the world to go for a toss! With so much already being spoken about this global pandemic, let’s throw some light on a relatively inconspicuous aspect, or rather, consequence, that this worldwide lockdown has given rise to domestic violence. Yes, you heard that right. Going by official statistics and reports, the collective efforts to save lives through lockdown have pushed one vulnerable group into the abysses of darkness.
Domestic Violence Rate Has Gone Up Worldwide
Be it Brazil, Germany, Italy, or China, women, and children who live with domestic violence have no escape from their abusers during quarantine, and there has been an alarming rise in abuse of late, as reported by activists and survivors alike. For example, in Hubei province, which was the epicenter of the initial coronavirus outbreak, activists in a media statement confirmed that domestic violence reports to police more than tripled in one country alone during the lockdown in February, from 47 last year to 162 this year. Likewise, Brazil has witnessed a surge in domestic violence cases, and it attributes to coronavirus isolation when it comes to state-run drop-in centers.
The Catalan Regional Government confirmed that it has received 20% more calls regarding domestic violence to its helpline within the first few days of the confinement period. And, if we delve a little deeper, we would realize that these are only cases where women are reaching out for help, many cannot make calls since they are afraid of being overheard by abusive partners, or are not in a position to leave their homes. As far as Italy is concerned, activists say that they were receiving desperate text messages and emails, though calls to helplines had dropped sharply.
How COVID-19 Is Acting As A Catalyst
Normally the perpetrators and the victims spend some parts of the day in work or socializing, thus giving the victims some breathing space and someone to talk to. But now with the COVID-19 lockdown, victims are confined indoors WITH their abusers all day long, leading to a spike in violence and abuse. Experts also opine that health and income-related worries will add to the anxiety and increase the risk of domestic abuse cases. The drop in calls to the force for help can ironically be an alarming signal that victims are suffering in silence, not having the freedom to seek help. If a victim of domestic abuse falls ill, it is quite likely that the abuser might throw them out of the house.
Rescue Paths Outlined For Victims
It offers some solace to know that in countries with the strictest lockdowns, such as Italy, victims are exempt from some of the rules. The Welsh Government said that its Live Fear Free helpline will remain open 24×7 and reminded that if anybody is in immediate danger, he/she should contact 999. A spokesman further added that the authorities are working in close coordination with all lead domestic abuse service providers and charities in Wales to ensure prompt support for people at risk. Matt Jukes, the chief constable at South Wales Police, also mentioned that if a victim calls them silently on 999 and 55, they will pick it up as a cause for concern. Additionally, with many communities helping to pick up shopping and prescriptions for the elderly and most vulnerable during the coronavirus restrictions, and now this move is being targeted at those that could be experiencing domestic violence. One effective way could be to pass them a discreet note if you are doing their shopping during this period and suspect that they are being abused.
Kids Are As Much Vulnerable As Adults
It is also worth noting that since schools are closed, millions of children are spending more time online than they otherwise would have, which makes them more vulnerable to online predators. Many governments across the world are working with charities, schools, and law enforcement to ensure parents and children know how to be safe online. And, if the lockdown in India, as well as other countries, continues for months at a stretch, life for such victims will be no better than a living hell. As governments invest billions into their economic and health departments, it is also imperative to not overlook or neglect the importance of equality and fundamental human rights. Domestic violence associations, during this ill-fated time, are facing a double-edged sword: with many social workers having to work from home, they are unable to reach victims, and when people need to be brought to safer places, the refugees are not enough to accommodate so many.
Let us pause for a moment and give it a thought: there are countless people out there in the world for whom home is not as safe as it should be. While staying indoors is a comfortable and reassuring option for us given the times, it is a nightmarish experience for so many!