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Rise in Domestic abuse amid the Coronavirus crises

Amid the coronavirus lockdown, the world champion boxer, Billy Joe Saunders decided to share his video where he used a punchbag to demonstrate how men could physically hurt female partners in response to “giving you mouth.”

The Pandemic has put many of the world’s major cities under complete curfews or lockdowns. Whether sick or healthy, families are bound to stay at home to curb the spread of the virus. A statistically rising is another pandemic that has brought immediate international attention. According to these statistics, domestic violence has surged, as lockdowns and confinements around the world have made women and children more vulnerable to abuse. The French Secretary of Equality, Marlene Schiappa has also confirmed to the rise of domestic violence victims and stated staying at homes at all times could be dangerous for women as “confinement is a breeding ground for domestic abuse.”

These negative consequences of suffering from domestic abuse have risen due to the availability of the opportunity. In an otherwise normal world, victims of domestic abuse would spend their time away from the abusive situation due to school, work, or therapy sessions. Now that this difficult situation has brought immediate attention, helplines and different methods to cope with domestic violence have been adapted but so far have not been as successful. This is most likely because it is easy for the perpetrators to keep the situation under control while staying at home. 

Spain, for example, has reported a constant rise in the number of domestic abuse victims. There has been a 47% increase in calls on the domestic violence helpline in April while the percentage of contacts through email for domestic abuse has risen as high as 700%! Women stay indoors during the constant lockdown. This has prevented victims from staying at home from meeting any potential supporters due to the constant observation from the perpetrators. To make it even more complicated, women who took the risk and fled their homes to report the case to the police stations had to face the possibility of contracting the coronavirus and also justify why they violated the curfew. 

Gender-based violence is not a new phenomenon. It is old but this time the situation is different as it is uncontrolled. Victims of abuse are forced into movement restriction, loss of income for most of the families, isolation from family members, overcrowding, stress, and anxiety. All these factors within the coronavirus pandemic have put women and children in different harmful situations to suffer from neglect and abuse. 

It is not the first time the statistics of domestic violence have risen. These statistics rise every time women and children become vulnerable in a situation where attention is drawn away from these victims. Previously these situations were only regional as epidemics such as Ebola virus disease outbreak, cholera outbreaks, and zika virus were epidemics, concentrated in just one region. Since health care costs shifted more towards containing the epidemics to curb the spread, domestic violence prevailed due to the limited access to healthcare services. 

At the moment countries with the highest rate of reported domestic abuse such as China, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom have provided helpline numbers to help citizens suffering from domestic abuse. Some countries such as France have circulated secret code words to help women report abuse cases through Pharmacies. Though this has helped vulnerable women spread the word around, it is still unknown how many women and children are actually suffering from neglect and abuse at the moment.

It was previously noted, domestic violence was at a rise in the UK and France. Now that families are under lockdown, it has become difficult for therapists and health care supporters to micro-manage abuse victims and their families. In a British newspaper, a senior Chief executive Dr. Marsha Scott reported that the pandemic has provided opportunities for people who are already abusing to control and coerce women and children in their homes to a greater degree. Micro-managing the victims, who they talk to, when they eat, when they sleep, when they go out, all have made it harder and more frightening for her in the context of the pandemic. Lack of micro-management has led to an increase in the number of domestic abuse cases, which is a serious violation of human rights. It not only affects the victims but negatively costs the society as a whole.

With the increase in domestic violence, its after-effects are devastating with negative psychological, physical, and social outcomes. Some of the short term outcomes may lead to minor or major injuries, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and trouble sleeping. The long term outcomes may include, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. With the prevailing long-term lockdowns, it is evident that women who suffer from constant domestic abuse will most likely suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in the near future, which in turn will add to the burden of the health care system. 

Many countries that have recorded a horrifying surge in domestic violence and intimate partner violence have tried and tested various methods to help cope with this tough time. The European Parliament also came out with a press release stating “we won’t leave Europe’s women alone” and is currently working with all member states to help cope with domestic abuse on different platforms. Domestic violence in France has been limited through the intervention of involving the police and the possibility of asking for help at the local pharmacies through code words. Australia has created the COVID-19  family and domestic violence task force to work with healthcare and police departments to continue the surveillance and monitoring of houses where domestic abuse is common. 

Individuals have also set up charities to help victims cope with domestic violence. Rihanna, a prominent celebrity, has played her role by donating a sum of US$2.1  million from her charity; Clara Lionel Foundation to assist victims of domestic violence.  Some domestic abuse organizations have also altered their way of operating to cater to the needs of domestic abuse victims in the new case scenario. A 1.6 billion pounds have been donated in Britain to the local councils to help women who wish to leave their homes in order to seek safety in a refuge. In Belgium, the Abused Women’s Active Response Emergency (AWARE system) has helped women contact the police to arrest the evicted perpetrators and help domestic abuse survivors seek refuge in empty hotels and bungalow parks.

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