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COVID-19’s Overlooked Effects: Domestic Violence

By: Samah Atique

The coronavirus has now reached a staggering death toll of 501,898, a number that continues to rapidly increase — so rapidly that the stats will probably change by the time you’re done reading this article. Besides the numerous lives it has already taken, the pandemic has begun to shed light on a number of unforeseen circumstances that have surfaced since the shelter-in-place mandates. For example, it has brought attention to the discrepancies in workplace supports, such as paid leaves, the scarcity of affordable childcare options, and the underfunding of reproductive health services to name just a few. More so, it has led to an increase in cases of domestic violence, all while making it that much more difficult for survivors of abuse to obtain help. Although these issues are of high salience, governments around the world are struggling to scrapple the resources necessary to help combat them, specifically when it comes to addressing pressing reports of domestic violence.

Financial instability, economic uncertainty, and social isolation are all consequences of the current pandemic. Unfortunately, they are also common triggers of abuse. According to Wan Fei, founder of an anti-domestic violence nonprofit in Hubei, China, reports of violence in the province have more than tripled since the start of the pandemic in the month of February alone. This holds similar to the situations in several other countries around the world, from Brazil, to Argentina, Germany, Italy, South Africa, France, the United States, and more, all of which have experienced massive surges in cases over the past few months. And these statistics only consider the cases that have been reported. 

To make matters worse, resources to help people facing abuse have been depleting. Many organizations founded to combat the issue have lost funding and places of refuge for survivors have been turned into homeless shelters by officials. This is due to the “all hands on deck” approach many governments and authorities are taking to combat the coronavirus, which includes redirecting resources from nonprofits and clinic services towards fighting the virus. As a result, the already weak and underfunded institutions that are meant to protect women from domestic abuse are further struggling to address the heightened demand. Furthermore, with strict shelter-in-place mandates in place, it has become much more difficult for survivors to leave their houses and obtain help, leaving them trapped at home with their abusers.     

However, several countries have taken steps to help survivors during the quarantine. Canada has decided to reallocate $50 million in funding towards sexual assault centers and women’s shelters, while France is allowing survivors to temporarily be housed in vacant hotel rooms free of cost. Furthermore, through the Spotlight Initiative, the United Nations is actively striving to eliminate domestic violence in the EU through funding and services meant to protect at-risk communities. However, the demands for long-term responses regarding social, economic, and psychological support still need to be taken into consideration to effectively help survivors in the long run.

Ultimately, at a time when people are being fined and arrested for not wearing masks in public, the excuse that there is a lack of resources to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable and properly provide support for survivors is purely baseless. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is working to ensure that their resources and helplines are available 24/7, despite the pandemic’s impact. The number to their hotline, as well as other important resources for those affected by abuse and in need of support are listed below.  

Furthermore, if you would like to donate to help take action for survivors amid the lockdown, you can do so here: 

National Domestic Violence Hotline 

Call 1-800-799-7233 

OR text LOVEIS to 22522 

For more information or guidance on resources, please visit: