Across the world, millions of people are staying home to help flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As countries are shutting down, mounting evidence indicates a sharp rise in domestic violence.
In India, which has the largest national lockdown in the world, the National Commission for Women has reported a surge in domestic violence complaints in a matter of days. Between March 23 and April 16 this year, complaints had risen to 587, compared to 396 which were registered between February 26 and March 22.
Historically, rates of domestic violence are higher in times of economic recession and uncertainty. According to Marianne Hester, a researcher at Bristol University, there is also a higher risk of domestic violence in periods when families are confined, such as during holidays.
Under the current COVID-19 restrictions, UN chief António Guterres warns that many women risk violence in the very place they should be the safest: their homes. People in danger are often unable to reach out for help as they are locked in with their abusers and cut off from the usual sources of support. Common tools of abuse include constant surveillance and strict rules for behavior, making it hard to seek support from friends and family outside of the home. Governments struggle to respond, as safehouses and shelters are forced to shut down due to risk of overcrowding, healthcare providers and police are understaffed, and local charities lack the necessary funds to meet the increased demand of their services.
As countries all over the world are forced to adapt their systems, however, promising new solutions are emerging. In France, the government has promised to open pop-up counselling centres and to pay for hotel rooms for people who are suffering from domestic violence. People are also encouraged to seek help at pharmacies using a code word. Meanwhile, Italy asks people to report abuse through the use of an app which enables them to seek help without having to make a phone call.
Key Facts: Domestic Violence
- WHO estimate that about 1 in 3 women (35%) experience physical and/ or sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Most of this violence is intimate partner violence
- Worldwide, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that that they have experienced some form of physical and/ or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.
- 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner.
- While the term ‘domestic violence’ is mainly used to refer to partner violence, it also encompasses child abuse, elder abuse, or abuse by any member of a household.