What is domestic violence? Many people think this is just physical abuse. The legal professional should think of domestic violence in more clinical and legal terms. This especially if cases involving domestic violence clients come to their practice.
Domestic violence is “…a pattern of physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuses. It results in threats, humiliation, and assault as acts of violence”
Now during this crisis of COVID 19 pandemic, the number of cases of domestic violence of all sorts have dramatically gone up.
In a more normal time, victims of domestic violence could leave their house or place of abuse to save themselves from their abusers. Especially during the lockdown, there is no place for them to go. That means staying at home or a place of living to face every abuse.
This dramatic rise in domestic violence is global. A survey of countries around the globe shows every country reporting steep rises in domestic violence as Lockdowns keep people in their houses. According to a Chinese anti-domestic violence activist, “…90% of the causes this year of violence are related to the COVID-19 epidemic”, citing these factors:
quarantine anxiety, the not knowing when personal freedoms will be restored;
economic insecurity, especially if job loss is involved and because of work-at-home;
weakened victim support networks, which now cannot meet;
sustained proximity, perhaps for months with very limited travel outside the home;
boredom, especially if most of the people in the household were working before;
anger at being deprived of personal liberty;
anger at “being crowded” and the constant presence of other people;
Domestic violence is not only violence against adults but also children. In many countries, there are helplines to save children from being abused. According to the World Health Organization, Emergency Services in each country have seen a sharp rise in domestic violence calls during the lockdown.
When schools were closed due to the fears of COVID19, the intention was to protect the children from the virus spreading. What educators and authorities did not count in was the rise in domestic violence that would inevitably follow “stay-at-home” Lockdowns and Quarantine orders.
Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of the United Nations entity, UN Women, has referred to the violence against women and girls as a ‘shadow pandemic’.
“…Within the last few months, about 243 million women and girls in the age of 15 to 49 years have been facing physical or sexual violence…”, Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka further states.
UN Women keeps statistics from different countries:
France, 30% increase in the domestic violence cases;
Cyprus witnessed an increase in calls to helplines by 30%;
Singapore also recorded a surge in the calls on helplines by 33%.
Argentina reported a 25% increase in emergency calls related to domestic violence;
In Australia, according to a Women’s Safety New South Wales survey, 40% of frontline workers had reported increased help requests by survivors.70% of these had also reported that the cases since the COVID 19 outbreak revealed greater complexity.
In the current scenario, women and children are unable to escape temporarily from the abuse. They will find it difficult to call the helpline as the abusive partners are around. Clinical management of rape, mental health, and psycho-social support are services that survivors need to be provided within an ideal world with abundant resources.
In a resource-limited country like India, such on-line services are a dream. The suffering will continue until COVID19 is tamed, the shadow pandemic is ended, and suffering lessened through the restoration of personal freedom and life outside the home.
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