Amanda Taub | New York Times
Add another public health crisis to the toll of the new coronavirus: Mounting data suggests that domestic abuse is acting like an opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic.
There was every reason to believe that the restrictions imposed to keep the virus from spreading would have such an effect, said Marianne Hester, a Bristol University sociologist who studies abusive relationships. Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations, she said.
Now, with families in lockdown worldwide, hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming.
The United Nations called on Sunday for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.
“Working with clients on developing safety escape plans is hard enough without a pandemic. It’s also a very delicate situation that requires a lot of things to happen in harmony in order to provide the client with the optimum level of protection from their abuser. The pandemic has added yet another layer of complication. The evidence is clear that many victims are hesitant to report acts of domestic violence. I cannot imagine how much harder it is when a decision to leave is coupled with the fear of an increased level of COVID-19 exposure for yourself and your children. With all of the panic caused by the pandemic, it seems as though state and local governments across the county have in large part forgotten about these vulnerable segments of society. I get it. There is a lot going on. The virus issue needs a lot of attention right now. But I have seen a lot of grass roots-level action being taken in Phoenix to provide much needed support to domestic violence victims during this time.” ~ Kaine Fisher