A Pandemic Within a Pandemic
“My husband won’t let me leave the house.”
What can now be referred to as a “pandemic within a pandemic,” governments are witnessing a global surge of victims silently suffering domestic violence. Domestic violence remains a prevalent but unspoken issue and violation of basic human rights. The sudden rise in occurrences of domestic abuse has taken a strike worldwide. Unfortunately, coronavirus lockdowns may be permitting this increase in domestic violence, putting multiple people at risk.
In light of the recent rise in killings and calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, urges that governments should have considered the influence of a national lockdown on the issue of domestic abuse. Mrs. May advises that countries must “tackle the coronavirus” in a way that does not do “more damage than the disease itself”. Meanwhile, Mrs. May’s government has postponed the discussion about the proposal of the Domestic Abuse Bill. This bill offers new protection for abuse victims, allowing for bans of contact between the abusers and their victims, which would take effect in England and Wales. Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Assembly has similarly debated new legal action regarding domestic abuse. The issue is urgent as reports of domestic violence have increased up to 49%. ("Coronavirus: Lockdown," 2020). The national hotline for domestic abuse has reported receiving such a report: “My husband won’t let me leave the house. He’s had flu-like symptoms and blames keeping me here on not wanting to infect others or bringing something like COVID-19 home. But I feel like it’s just an attempt to isolate me.” The caller went on to explain how her perpetrator threatened to kick her out of the house if she showed any wary symptoms such as coughing. Coronavirus lockdowns have isolated victims from reaching out as they face similar threats of being thrown out or experiencing restrain from receiving financial and medical resources (Godin, 2020). While governments may have been taking steps towards preventing the spread of the virus, they have been unable to inhibit the spread of violence.
A mother, known as Lele, in China was beaten by her husband with a high chair until two of its metal legs broke off. She was left with numerous bruises all over her legs and a hematoma. She says that the domestic abuse has gotten worse after she became forced to spend 24 hours with her husband under lockdown. Although she filed for divorce, the court proceedings were delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis, and Lele had no choice but to live with her assailant and 11-month old child. In France, this “intimate terrorism” has increased by a drastic 30% (Taub, 2020). Abusers are taking this opportunity to their benefit by imposing strict surveillance and restrainment on food, water, and other necessities.
As victims face difficulty seeking aid, abusers feel an increase in the amount of control and triggers more of their actions. Not only does “social distancing” act as a barrier, but so does fear. Many other victims are afraid of reaching out for help at centers or hospitals in fear of catching the coronavirus. Unfortunately, Suzanne Dubus, CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center (a center dealing with domestic abuse), describes this coronavirus as a helpful “tactic” for perpetrators to make their victims feel more isolated and helpless ("Reports of Domestic," 2020).
Coronavirus: Lockdown exit must take domestic abuse rise into account - May. (2020, April 28). Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52453372
Godin, M. (2020, March 18). As cities around the world go on lockdown, victims of domestic violence look for a way out. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://time.com/5803887/coronavirus-domestic-violence-victims/
Reports of domestic violence rise in recent weeks amid coronavirus lockdowns. (2020, April 18). Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/04/18/837855166/reports-of-domestic-violence-rise-in-recent-weeks-amid-coronavirus-lockdowns
Taub, A. (2020, April 6). A new covid-19 crisis: Domestic abuse rises worldwide. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html