Coronavirus Lockdown Reveals Another Epidemic
There is a dark correlation between the ongoing coronavirus epidemic and domestic abuse.
Data shows that because of the outbreak, abuse will most likely rise around the world. For example, in Hubei province, where the virus originated, police recorded more than three times the usual number of domestic abuse cases during the country-wide lockdown.
BBC News reported that charity group Refuge found that since lockdown efforts started, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has received a 25% jump in calls in online pleas for help.
In the last two weeks, Refuge collected several hundred more calls than usual. Domestic abuse advocates have predicted that recent restrictions would magnify tensions within homes and prevent victims from accessing usual escape routes.
According to the BBC, the charity said demand on other services and awareness campaigns might also have contributed to the rise.
Many men and women who are contending with ongoing domestic abuse are now experiencing an escalation in abusive behavior and may feel trapped.
Victims of abuse may not have realized their partner was abusive until being forced to self-quarantine.
More subtle forms of abuse like isolating victims from friends and family can often be aside because they are not the model of domestic violence that comes to mind.
During the last week of February, the National Domestic Abuse helpline, a UK-wide website, saw a 150% spike in visitors looking for information.
Not Just A Private Concern
Some advocates and officials worry that in addition to the heightened domestic abuse rate, there will also be more homicides.
Sandra Horley, Refuge chief executive, says most perpetrators employe isolation “as a tool of control.”
She adds that “in lockdown or self-isolation, women and children are likely to be spending concentrated periods of time with perpetrators, potentially escalating the threat of domestic abuse and further restricting their freedom.”
It’s important to remember that abuse is not just physical. It can be controlling or threatening behaviors, coercive actions that are emotional, financial, psychological, or sexual in nature.
It’s hard to stop abuse when it’s not evident due to confinement and social distancing. But law enforcement officers stress that men and women dealing with an abusive home environment need to report occurrences and find support from domestics abuse groups like Refuge, even during a pandemic.
Challenges Facing Charities
Chayn, another UK-based domestic abuse charity, reported that during an audit of 199 agencies held by SafeLives found that despite the surge of calls, most organizations have to limit their services because of the coronavirus.
Many agencies offer in-person or phone assistance, but 25% of organizations are unable to help victims because of technical problems, being unable to meet victims personally, or staff shortages.
In the UK, the government is seeing more demand to declare emergency funding for victims.
The chief executive of Safe Lives, Suzanne Jacob, said, “We know the government is thinking about what extra support might be needed for victims and their families during this difficult time, and this research shows that helping services to stay afloat and carry on doing their vital lifesaving work will be key.”
- Kelly, June, and Tomos Morgan. “Coronavirus: Domestic Abuse Calls up 25% since Lockdown, Charity Says.” BBC News, BBC, 6 Apr. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/uk-52157620.
- Townsend, Mark. “Domestic Abuse Cases Soar as Lockdown Takes Its Toll.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Apr. 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/04/domestic-abuse-cases-soar-as-lockdown-takes-its-toll.