Abuse Pandemic meet Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus is like the Kim Kardashian of viruses – breaking the news with one new story after the other. Controversial, scandalous, notorious. Newspapers and information channels constantly remind us of the number of infected and dead and more than once have they mentioned the drastic repercussions on the economy. Apart from pharmaceutical companies and toilet-paper producers, most businesses suffer under the strict measurements implemented by the government in countries all over the world. Every minute we are flooded with information on how to wash our hands, how to detect symptoms quickly, and how to avoid a viral infection by staying within the safety of our four walls. However, in the chaos of hamster shopping and trying to keep the virus away by burning sage and smudging in all directions, we tend to forget that ‘home’ is not a safe place for everyone.

Confined in a nightmare

The terminology around the coronavirus is a constant in the current news: lockdown, shelter-in-place, quarantine, self-isolation. While the safety measurements are meant to positively influence the communal well-being, for some, the social distancing can turn into a house of horror.

According to global estimates published by WHO about “1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime”. Equally important, domestic violence against men is not as infrequent as often assumed. An American National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey concludes around 25 per cent of men report either-or having experienced stalking, rape and physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Global percentage estimates regarding abuse against men range from 15 per cent to over 40 per cent of all domestic violence cases depending on the statistic. 

Nevertheless, abuse has many faces and next to domestic, family, gender-based and non-partner sexual violence, it can also be concentrated on children. Maltreatment of children regards all forms of violence against under-eighteen-year-olds. Therefore, the perpetrators mostly are parents or other caregivers, but sometimes can also be peers, romantic partners or strangers. WHO estimates that yearly up to one billion children globally between the age of two and seventeen are victims to physical, emotional or sexual violence or neglect.

When pandemic meets pandemic

Domestic Violence is like a pandemic next to which the Covid-19 seems like a minor cold. As a matter of fact, it is not bothered by the coronavirus in the slightest, rather does it use the virus as a means to isolate victims even more. How should those affected by abuse physically distance themselves from their perpetrator if there is an increased risk of infection on the outside? Hotlines have even reported cases of women afraid of going to the ER due to fear of catching the coronavirus, even though they had serious injuries because of their abuser. Furthermore, some abusers might try to manipulate their partners into believing there are no resources available for them during this situation or they may limit sharing critical information about Covid-19. Other methods of exerting power over the abused could involve lies stating the victimizer is sick and that they have infected the other or that it is too risky to visit family and friends. 

Unsurprisingly, being locked in a house or apartment with our closest family members for several days at a time can leave us feeling like stuck in a tin of sardines. Being forced to interact with each other at some point might be the cause of some disagreements. Therefore, a situation in which one is confined with an abusive roommate is unimaginable for most of us.

Powerlessness cubed 

It is known that domestic violence is deep-rooted in the concept of power and control. Currently, with the crown-shaped virus painting the town red many families are robbed of their jobs and child care. Calling this ego-weakening would be the understatement of the year. For some, one way of feeling back in control might be taking out their frustration and lack of power on someone else – their victim. Nevertheless, this does not mean that cases of domestic violence will rise during lockdowns, but it is absolutely likely that people already caught in this death trap will experience more extreme abuse. 

Generally, victims wait until they are alone before they seek help by calling a hotline or reaching out to friends. However, during a lockdown, if the abuser does not go to work, the options are limited. Affected people are still encouraged to secretly try and seek out hotlines, therapists, shelters and counsellors. 

According to WHO, 90 per cent of children who are exposed to intimate partner violence at home are eyewitnesses to it. Moreover, a lot of kids are affected by violent caretakers directly. In a lot of cases, teachers and school employees are the first to notice signs of abuse and maltreatment. As a result, they are often the first step to helping kids out of that terrible situation. Especially because indicators of neglect and assault like bruises, cuts and signs of malnourishment are legally required to be reported to authorities. But without school and staff there to detect the violence, these at-home-ongoings stay hidden. 

Guns N’ Corona

Next to fever, dry cough, economic recession and panic-induced toilet paper purchases, gun shopping appears to be another symptom of the Covid-19. Several people have stated that the purchase of guns and ammunition during this pandemic are a means to protect themselves and be prepared in case of riots or panic. Nonetheless, it is important to note that 40 per cent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. There is a direct link between domestic abuse and gun violence. According to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund “abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their victims, and guns further exacerbate the power and control dynamic used by abusers to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims”.

Where to get help

If you are affected by domestic violence or know someone who is, here are websites I found with great resources.

On the blog MysticMagMichelle Cardillo posted a very exhaustive guide with global resources that one can contact or find useful tips at.

HotPeachPages, which offers information on abuse help agencies for very country in the world.

DomesticShelters.org provides a list of America-wide and global resources for those in need. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline is an American hotline service that offers support, crisis intervention information and educational services. 

The Recovery Village Ridgefield and DrugRehab.com specialise on treating substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders, which often go hand in hand with intimate partner abuse, for abusers and abused likewise. They offer a number of different resources as well as hotline services. 

Refuge is a website created in partnership with National Domestic Abuse Helpline workers as well as survivors of domestic abuse and it operates in Great Britain. 

1800Respect offers confidential 24/7 service for anyone in Australia who is experiencing domestic violence or is supporting someone in that situation.

These are only a few resources, but for anyone who is a victim of any kind of violence: There are people out there who are glad and willing to help you!

  1. Newton, J. (2020). Quarantine. Self-Isolation. Lockdown. Shelter In Place. What’S The Difference?. [online] AFAR Media. Available at: <https://www.afar.com/magazine/quarantine-self-isolation-lockdown-shelter-in-place-whats-the-difference> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
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  6. Ncadv.org. (2020). NCADV | National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [online] Available at: <https://ncadv.org/statistics> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
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  9. Whitley, R., (2019). Domestic Violence Against Men: No Laughing Matter. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/201911/domestic-violence-against-men-no-laughing-matter> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
  10. WHO. (2017). Violence Against Women. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
  11. EverytownResearch.org. (2019). Guns And Violence Against Women. [online] Available at: <https://everytownresearch.org/reports/guns-intimate-partner-violence/> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
  12. Selvaratnam, T., 2020. Opinion | Where Can Domestic Violence Victims Turn During Covid-19?. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/opinion/covid-domestic-violence.html> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
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