The Coronavirus has forced entire countries the world over into states of complete lock-down in an attempt to terminate the rapid spread of the virus and uncontrollable mortality rates. However, the lock-down has some severe implications for those women who are living in abusive households.
Complaints of domestic violence increased since the lock-down started, with complaints in particular countries rising by a staggering 50 percent than before the lock-down began. So, you might ask, is the COVID-19 pandemic sparking a domestic violence pandemic?
COVID-19 alone is not sparking a domestic violence pandemic. However, government response to the COVID-19 epidemic, specifically the mandated lock-downs, is having the unintended consequence of contributing to a remarkable increase in domestic violence all over the world. Victims’ inability to leave the household, combined with a lack of recourse to regular points of assistance, has proven to be a lethal combination. As evidence of this increase in domestic violence, the United Nations (UN) has issued a report which illustrates the rising violence against women throughout Latin America as a result of the COVID-19 lock-downs. The report presents some particularly shocking figures, as summarized below:
- The number of calls to Argentina’s emergency line for abuse victims has risen by 67% since their lock-down was imposed on March 20, as compared to April 2019.
- The number of femicides in Argentina during quarantine is double the average rate.
- The number of calls to Chile’s domestic abuse helplines increased by 70% in the first weekend of quarantine.
- Calls for help to the local office providing legal, psychological, and social support in Santiago’s Providencia District increased by 500% under the lock-down.
- In Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, there has been a reported 45% increase in cases of violence against women where police were dispatched over the last month, as compared to a year earlier.
- Complaints to police of domestic violence in Mexico rose around 25% in March, as compared to a year earlier;
- Daily domestic violence calls to Colombia’s national women’s hotline were up nearly 130% during the first 18 days of quarantine.
The UN report does note that in certain countries like Chile and Bolivia, there has been a drop in formal complaints of domestic violence. However, this drop is likely to be because women simply were less able to seek help or report the abuse, as opposed to being reflective of a reduction of domestic violence occurrences.
Although countries’ lock-down requirements have had grave implications for domestic violence victims, it appears to have provided an impetus for individual governments to implement better support infrastructure for victims of domestic violence rapidly. Some examples of the added support structures are shelters, specialist police units, and online applications for protection orders, and prioritizing complaints of child abuse in the court systems. Also instituted were the emergency warning systems in grocery stores, funding hotel rooms for victims who need to escape violent homes, and pop-up counseling centers.
COVID-19 itself is not sparking a domestic violence pandemic. However, the government-mandated lock-downs required due to COVID-19 has resulted in increased domestic abuse, with Latin America being but one example of what victims in other countries might also be experiencing. Though individual governments have taken positive steps to help these women, we can only hope that the mechanisms implemented to assist victims will continue after lock-down, so that domestic violence does not become another “pandemic.”
If you are a victim of abuse, report it immediately. We also encourage you to contact the The National Domestic Violence Hotline Here. If you need legal representation, give us a call at 650.261.9791 We will give you the resources and support you need.