COVID-19 Lockdowns, Domestic Violence and Divorce
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected most countries around the world and upended the daily lives of many. With no cure nor vaccine presently available against it, governments are forced to take other measures to stop the spread of the virus. COVID-19 is said to be a highly infectious disease. The virus is actually part of a family of corona viruses, with COVID-19 being the newest strain discovered. However, one fact that sets it apart from other types of corona viruses is that it has the ability to spread faster.
One of the primary means of spreading the virus is through air droplets expelled by a person infected with COVID-19. Because of this, governments have been forced to impose strict social distancing measures, and most have imposed lockdowns on congested cities and areas to reduce the spread. Lockdown requires people to stay inside their homes and go out only for a limited time for basic needs. For most of the part, the lockdown is a necessary measure. However, it also comes with several unforeseen results.
Rise in Cases
The rise in domestic violence and divorce cases seems to be one consequence of the lock-down that governments were not prepared for. With spouses and partners being forced to stay inside their homes, abusers are given more opportunities to enact their abuse on their victims. Sometimes this is also known as ‘intimate terrorism’. What makes the situation worse is that victims don’t have the recourse of escaping from their homes into a shelter, as most shelters have been shut for the duration of the lock-down.
Abuse isn’t limited to physical abuse, although it is the most common form of abuse suffered by domestic violence victims. It may also be emotional or psychological. For example, one immunocompromised victim called a hotline because his partner was hiding alcohol and disinfectant from him. It’s also worth noting that men too, can become victims of domestic violence.
The pattern of increased domestic violence cases in lockdown is rising globally. In Beijing, China, NGOs have reported a surge in calls to their hotline regarding domestic violence. Spain, whose lockdown protocols are extremely strict, reported an 18 percent increase in the number of calls regarding domestic violence, compared to statistics from the previous month. France, which went into lockdown a few days after Spain, reported an increase of 30 percent in reported domestic violence cases. Italy reported a decrease in calls to their hotlines but received an increase in messages and texts from desperate victims.
The rise of domestic violence cases is particularly disastrous because the already-fragile resources meant for domestic violence victims cannot deal with the increased number of cases. As most shelters have shut during the lockdown, governments are reluctant to reopen them because of the severe risk of infection brought about by multiple people sharing one room. Hotlines, already operating on a reduced capacity because of the lack of personnel, are being overwhelmed by calls for help.
This crisis has led to calls for the government to take action. In Spain, the government announced that domestic violence victims would not be fined for going out during lockdown if they were escaping from their abusers. The Italian government also announced that it was requisitioning hotel rooms to serve as makeshift shelters. Spain later followed suit with this announcement.
Britain, which imposed a lockdown after most European countries, published a list of hotlines for victims to call if they need help. But this was deemed inadequate. Weeks later, civic groups wrote an open letter to the government, asking them to address the crisis. Government officials responded that they would act on the matter, but failed to mention specifics.
The rise of domestic violence and divorce during the lock-down period is alarming and has exposed a key weakness in the government’s fight against domestic violence and family disputes. With a looming economic crisis on the horizon, it remains to be seen how governments will address this issue in the future, and whether or not their actions will have any lasting impact.