While safety protocols ask people to stay at home, a different calamity is taking place behind closed doors. Studies show that cases of domestic violence tend to increase during periods when families spend more time together.
Let’s go through some information on family violence and how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting it. We’ll also be going through what you can do if you’re a victim or what we can do to help.
Facts About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is an act of abuse that takes place between people in an intimate relationship. According to Blake Griffin Edwards, LMFT, “Domestic violence (DV) takes many forms, including chronic arguing and yelling, controlling behaviors, intimidation, threats of suicide or murder, threats involving weapons, and serious injuries.”
However, we can also take the term in a broader sense to include violence against children and relatives. These forms of abuse can be physical, verbal, sexual, or economic. Such can take place in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. The people involved may be dating, cohabiting, be married, or merely intimately-involved.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of three women experiences some form of abuse in their lifetime. Despite most reports and studies focusing on women being the victims, men can also be the target. The number of reported cases may seem low, but most of these situations typically go unreported. This problem is likely due to the stigma surrounding the idea that men can be victims as well.
The Current Situation
With the on-going health crisis, more people are at risk of experiencing domestic abuse at home. Countries such as the UK, China, and the US report that domestic cases have increased significantly since the beginning of the outbreak. The City of Jingzhou in Hubei says that reported cases have tripled in February versus that of last year.
There are several ways that the coronavirus outbreak exacerbates this risk.
First, quarantine protocols ask people to stay indoors as much as possible. Families should not go outside except for reasons such as purchasing food and medicine, going to work, and seeking critical medical attention. Being around the abuser more makes it more likely for individuals to experience acts of abuse.
Second, the stress that the pandemic brings can worsen conflict within families. The threat of illness has everyone on edge, and families are losing their sources of income. Such problems can bring about more considerable distress to individuals. Abusers may thus take their frustrations out on their family.
Third, victims may have less contact with friends and families outside who may offer them protection and support. In many cases of abuse, the abuser will typically try to cut off communication between the victim and loved ones. This action ensures that they won’t be able to seek help and leave the abuser.
Fourth, there’s lesser access to essential goods, forcing the victim to rely on the abuser. Protective measures limit individuals from leaving their homes, and many businesses also closed due to the pandemic. For these reasons, a victim may not be able to meet their needs on their own. This dependence gives more power to the abuser, which they can use against the victim.
Fifth, it can be difficult to access help as sources of aid may also be operating limitedly. Individuals may not be able to access hotlines, shelters, protection services, counselors, and legal assistance as freely as before. Thus, they will be unable to seek the necessary help that they desperately need.
What We Can Do
Despite the added difficulty, there are ways we can help address the problem of domestic abuse.
For one, not all sources of help have closed down. Although the workforce may have decreased, there are still people manning hotlines and running charities. If you are experiencing domestic violence, try to reach out to these organizations for help.
Additionally, we, as individuals, can continue to offer up help during these trying times as well. As the abuser may try to cut off communication, it matters for you to be proactive about helping. If you know or suspect someone of suffering from domestic abuse, reach out. If your area permits it, pay a visit to where your relative or friend lives to check on them. If someone does ask for help, try to be as accommodating as you can. Offer your place as a temporary shelter, if possible. Further, try to call the authorities or a local charity to help provide additional help.
While many of us are busy dealing with the threat of COVID-19, many families are suffering from domestic violence. Several factors are putting many men, women, children, and others at higher risk. Despite social distancing measures, we should never forget to be compassionate during this pandemic. If you believe someone may be experiencing such, be proactive about reaching out. Try to connect with them or go to local authorities or organizations that are capable of helping.