The pandemic confined millions of people to their abodes and for many, the confinement exposed them to a different kind of risk.
Covid-19 and subsequent mandatory lockdowns have led to an uptick in domestic violence. Oddly enough, there is a strong correlation between disasters in general and domestic violence as there is plenty of evidence that catastrophes perceptibly raise the occurrence of domestic abuse.
For example, gender-based violence and mostly partner abuse peaked after Hurricane Katrina with an increase of 25 percent. Numbers dropped to their conventional levels only one year after the disaster. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, domestic violence in the region increased by 20 per cent.
Domestic violence, which is also labelled as intimate terrorism, is not just physical abuse. It also involves emotional and economic abuse, isolation from friends and family, and perpetual surveillance. Judith Lewis Hermann, a trauma expert at Harvard University medical school, compared domestic violence with kidnapping. She points out that forcible methods applied by the abusers have disquieting similarities with kidnappers' tools over hostages and repressive regimes' techniques to break the political prisoners' will.
Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, further explored this connection. She stated, "We know that domestic violence is rooted in power and control." Thus, in times of global uncertainty and lack of direction, those who cannot cope with difficulties take out on their victims. The substantial number of layoffs because of the pandemic has direct effects on domestic violence.
Many statistics help illustrate such a stark picture. According to a recent report, there has been a 100 percent increase in gender-based abuses in India's first month of the national lockdown.
Similarly, in Australia, 10 percent of women had experienced domestic violence a few months into the Pandemic. Likewise, the rates in France increased by 30 percent in April 2020 because of confinement. In Brazil, these numbers raised by about 40-50 percent nationwide. In a similar vein, the UK faced a large rise in domestic abuse reported via helplines. Consequently, 35 murders occurred during the first lockdown.However, these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.
Stalk the victims
The exceptional circumstances surrounding the Pandemic have also worsened the entire process. Reporting an incident has become more complicated. Worse, because of the restrictions, the abuser remains at home as confinement prevents him from going outside. That is why calls to hotlines have arisen in some regions while declining in others.
Ergo, new calls for assistance, such as "Sign for Help," gained popularity. These consist of a simple sign that any victim can use silently during a video call. Similarly, new apps surged in the market. For instance, the hollieguard app immediately sends location, audio, and video evidence to chosen contacts in case of violence.
Besides domestic violence, another issue that disrupts individuals and families' safety during the Pandemic is cyberbullying and tech abuse, which is also used by abusers to stalk their victims. Avast, the multinational cybersecurity software company, said that within the first month post-Covid-19, new records of spyware and stalker-ware were reached and incidents increased by 51 percent globally.
Similarly, Malwarebytes noted that spyware detection increased by 780 percent, and spyware detection has risen by 1677 percent in six months.Moreover, the pandemic has also constrained the process of finding shelters. Most shelter homes are not accepting new applicants because of the risk of infection. Many are closed or operate in a limited capacity. Even when they are operating, these institutions provide only short-term help. Due to the current economic slowdown, many victims have no choice but to remain or return to the abusive environment.
Finally, the bureaucratic process is not conducive for the punishment of the culprits. Lengthy procedures and endless filling of paperwork often mean that the perpetrators run away and thus are not arrested. While the culprits' identification is paramount for this process, research shows that "arrests are more likely when victims and suspects are strangers."
When the abuser and the victim are related, the police usually document the attack but take no further actions if other procedures are in motion, such as divorce.It should be noted that domestic violence is not just a gender issue – even if women are more likely to be subjected to it.
A survey conducted by NISVS shows that every four in ten women and every man in ten in the US faced partner violence. The hotline services' calls are diverse. They involve abused men or people mistreated by their non-romantic partners, such as roommates. Furthermore, in 90 percent of domestic violence cases, children are witnesses of the abuse.
With a lack of access to childcare services, children are likely to be victims of such aggressions.In short, while the word 'domestic' may convey a gentle impression, the violence associated with it should not be acceptable. Domestic violence is not a family issue. It is a violation of human rights and a crime, both physical and emotional.
With Covid-19, the organisations in charge of fighting this social scourge are not as efficient as they used to be. People need to be more aware of this predicament as it is not someone else's problem; it is everyone's responsibility.