Increasing Domestic Violence During the Pandemic

Increasing Domestic Violence During the Pandemic

By Jim Windell

            Although 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment – giving U.S. women the right to vote – there is no cause to celebrate when there is escalating domestic violence. This is true not only in the U.S. but around the globe.   

            As Jackie Abramian pointed out recently in Forbes magazine, the UN Secretary General called for a global ceasefire on a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence.” The European Parliament called on its members to increase support for domestic violence victims. And Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, founder and CEO of International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) – an organization which offers recommendations to governments and the international community based on consultation with Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership in 38 countries, recently said: “Violence in the home, predominantly perpetrated by men against women and children is a pandemic within the pandemic. Through our Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership global network we are also hearing of the rise in child sex abuse as well as femicide.”  

            The statistics bear out this grim news. For instance, a UN Women Report shows increases in emergency calls in France and Cyprus of 30%; 35% in Singapore; 25% in Argentina; and even in China where reports of domestic violence have tripled over this time last year. Early in the pandemic, there were reports in the U.S. that calls regarding domestic violence has decreased, although it was speculated that women experiencing domestic violence were fearful of placing such calls. But even before the pandemic, one in four U.S. experience domestic violence during their lifetime. If domestic violence is increasing in other countries, it is very likely it is also increasing here as well. In fact, one study recently published about domestic violence identified in one hospital found a “horrifying rise” in such cases.

            The reason? Experts suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies to prevent its spread, such as self-quarantine and travel restrictions, have isolated families and intensified the conditions – unemployment and financial worries and other stresses – that place people at greater risk for domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence usually turn to informal support resources, like family and friends, first to share their experiences and get support. But that form of resource may be generally unavailable while people are quarantined.

            Jackie Abramian, who has conducted research with domestic violence victims, writes that she and her colleagues believe that family and friends are key to ending domestic violence and play a role that is distinct from what service professionals can provide. Social service providers, Abramian says, should work more closely with family and friends of victims to communicate what domestic violence looks like in their families and communities. In addition, they need to identify how cultural and family values and scripts limit and expand their choices to help. This is especially important during a pandemic when domestic violence victims may be cut off from those that were closest to them. Abramian concludes that if family and friends are more engaged with victims, this may inspire communities to help reduce – if not end – domestic violence.

 To see the original sources for this story, click here and here.



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