When faced with a global pandemic, scientists, politicians, and journalists alike have acclaimed the use of “quarantining” as a means of preventing one’s exposure to the deadly Coronavirus or as a means of isolating people who have already been exposed.

While recognized as an important tool in preventing the spread of the virus, quarantining has caused many unintended side effects including a notable increase in reports of domestic violence on a global scale. 

Reported Increase in Domestic Violence Worldwide

Quarantining was used as an integral tool for combating Coronavirus in Asia, Europe, as well as in North and South America. 

Harvard Medical School recently conducted a study that analyzed data regarding domestic violence across multiple countries. They found an undeniable surge in cases of intimate partner violence (known as IPV) that occurred during the early months of the pandemic. 

This study specifically looked at rates of femicides, also known as the killing of a woman as a result of IPV. They determined that the United Kingdom has reported their highest femicide rate in 11 years, nearly doubling their annual average. Similarly, Mexico reported an 8% increase in femicide rates which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 women during the early months of 2020 alone. 

According to WebMD, during the combined years of 2018 and 2019, one hospital in Massachusetts reported 27 total IPV-related cases. This number has already been surpassed during the spring of 2020 alone with graphic injuries sustained from burns, strangulation, and the use of firearms. 

In the Hubei province of China, which withstood the initial brunt of the pandemic, domestic violence reports to police tripled during the month of February when compared to one year prior. 

Adriana Mello, a judge in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who specializes in cases involving domestic violence, estimates that cases have surged by approximately “40 to 50 percent.” 

Despite the statistical rise in domestic violence that has occurred during the Coronavirus pandemic, the number of victims who reached out for help has considerably decreased.

More Domestic Violence, Less Calls for Help

For victims of domestic abuse, leaving one’s home to go to work or to drop off their kids at school provides critical moments of freedom from one’s abuser. 

During these moments of physical space from their offender, many victims have the ability to call for help — whether by contacting a domestic violence hotline or calling the police. However, during quarantine, many victims no longer have the ability to leave their homes, and this hinders their ability to reach out for help. While at home, victims are oftentimes under the unwanted gaze of their abuser, and a phone call for help could lead to severe consequences if overheard. 

As reported recently by Fox News, SafeLink, a Massachusetts domestic violence hotline, has experienced a 15% deficit in calls from victims throughout the past several months. 

The Guardian recently noted that activists in Italy have reported a sharp decrease in calls to domestic violence hotlines. However, they also noted a large increase in the use of emails and text messages as a means of reporting cases of domestic violence. 

With a notable increase in domestic violence, October’s designation as Domestic Violence Awareness Month carries new meaning and greater importance.

When new challenges arise, new solutions must follow. 

Since its establishment in 1989, Domestic Violence Awareness Month has stood as a reminder that one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of violence by their intimate partner. 

While combating domestic violence has been an ongoing struggle throughout time, 2020 has presented many victims with new challenges. Victims today face increased stress due to fear of the Coronavirus itself as well as financial struggles or loss of occupation and increased time at home. 

Because many victims were unable to call domestic violence hotlines, due to being quarantined at home with their abuser, domestic violence call centers must always provide victims with the ability to reach out for help by email and text message. 

For many victims of domestic abuse, quarantining has brought more harm than safety. If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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The Future of Connection for Women

Ross Mellman
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