No safe haven: Domestic Abuse-The Economist


Before COVID-19 began to spread, domestic abusers often got their way by isolating their victims to exert physical and psychological control over them. The lockdown has increased its impunity.

The Economist report highlights, “Those at risk—be they partners, children or parents—can no longer escape, even briefly, to school or work.”

Several countries saw a spate in case of domestic violence. In France reports to police of domestic abuse rose by at least 30% in the first week of the lockdown. But other places are noting steep declines. Reports of domestic violence in New York City in April dropped by 35% compared with the same month last year. Meanwhile, overall crime fell by 29% over the same period.

The report notes, “Even in normal times domestic violence is underreported. The UN estimates that less than 40% of women who are physically abused at home seek any help.” In these times victims may be scared to call the police or a helpline if their tormentor who are lurking somewhere in the house can overhear them. The fear of getting infected has constrained the movement of victims. Those who have lost their jobs may find it even more difficult to leave. Social workers too can’t cater to the vulnerable due to the fear of infection.

Lockdown is prompting some already abusive men to become physically violent. Victims now have to turn to innovative methods. Online help has increased. “Refuge, a British charity, has an online-chat tool that shows survivors how to set up strict privacy features on their mobile phones”, says the report.

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Several forums are giving expert advice to children and victims to abate their troubles. Some are doing Zoom therapy sessions. Courts in New York have started issuing orders virtually. This may remove the obstacle of having to go physically to a court to gain legal protection from an abuser. “Domestic abuse will outlive the pandemic”, but these innovative technologies can thwart domestic abusers in future.

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