An April 2020 report by UNWomen, highlighted the emerging evidence of the impact of the recent global pandemic, COVID-19 on violence against women and girls. The report shows that France has recorded 30% increase in reports of domestic violence since the lockdown, Cyprus 30%, Singapore 33%, Argentina 25%, while Canada, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States of America have equally recorded increased cases and demand for emergency shelter.
On April 6, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres called for a ceasefire from the horrifying global surge in domestic violence directed towards women and girls, linked to the COVID-19 lockdown.
He tweeted; “Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic”.
Another report by BBC’s Gender and identity correspondent, Megha Mohan, detailed direct accounts of domestic violence from women across the world including the UK, USA and India. One of the reports stated
“But things changed when the school closed on the 14th, then the children were home constantly, and they began to irritate my husband. Usually, he saves his anger for me, but he has begun to yell at them for minor things like leaving a cup on the floor. I then say something to divert his attention so he can be angry at me, but the more time we are together, the less I can think of to distract him.”
After reading that, I wondered, with more than a fifth of the world’s population under lockdown in the global fight against coronavirus, and no definite date put on the lifting of the lockdown in various countries, what can be done to reduce, or curb the increasing numbers of domestic violence cases around the world?
A lot has been done in the last ten years to reduce the number of domestic violence cases and to encourage victims to speak up, but then, people were able to move around. They were not cooked up in a space for unending hours with their abusive partners. Now, we have people sharing the same space with no bailout insight, and some countries do not have readily accessible helplines to reach out to, in case of domestic violence. What happens when we find ourselves at this impasse?
I did a little research and put together information from various sources. And with emphasis on some emerging economies where there are no readily accessible helplines for victims of domestic violence, it would not hurt to share a few tips that can help people learn How To Stop Domestic Violence in homes during this lockdown. Here is what I found, not in any particular order:
Before we can transcend, we must accept – recognizing the signs of domestic violence is crucial. It is said that Identifying the signs is the primary and most significant step towards stopping the chain of domestic violence.
It may sound odd, but many women have yet to identify or accept that they are victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, this first and very important step must be taken by the victim to enable them to move to the next phase. The signs of domestic violence may differ and may not be composed of only physical attacks like beatings. It as well includes emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and economic abuse. The victim needs to identify these factors as it relates to their situation in order to overcome it.
Teach Men to stand against domestic violence – in some cultures, people especially men, turn a blind eye to ill-treatment of women, even among family. More men should be encouraged to speak up against domestic violence, and teach others to develop a healthy and respectful attitude towards women in the family, workplace, and society. The lockdown affords us communication time with friends and family; we can put it to good use by reaching out to friends and family. You never know who you can save.
Use your social media platform – since the lockdown, more people are using social media platforms, video conferencing, chats etc. as a form of recreation and to stay in touch and up to date. This gives us an opportunity to use these platforms to create awareness, encourage victims, and share relevant information about overcoming domestic violence. Global estimates published by WHO in 2017 indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. People are seeking help online, especially through social media, with our help; women can identify their situation, and learn to speak to someone or get on the road to taking action and recovery. Victims can also directly contact the media or people who may be in a position to help their situation from the online space. There have been cases of children rescued from their abusive guardians through video recordings captured and shared on social media by a concerned neighbour. We do not have to wait for a crisis to act; we can all do something with our platforms to save a life.
Community engagement – Another great way to put a stop to the issues of domestic violence is to educate as many people as possible in the community about Domestic Violence, and how it impacts the lives of individuals and the community at large. These training can be carried out in partnership with local Domestic Violence shelters, women groups, or police community outreach officers working in the community. Where this is not possible, especially during this lockdown situation, we can make use of what we have. Many people belong to a WhatsApp group, alumni, women’s’ fellowship or the like, and these groups serve as our communities at this time. Trainings and engagements can be carried out within these groups, and we can tell a friend to tell a friend that a phone call or simple text can be the lifeline that a victim needs.
Be Your Neighbours Keeper – A few years ago, I lived in an apartment building next door to a couple, where the man was extremely violent. Many incidents that I dread to recall happened during this time, and I am ashamed to say I did nothing about it. Fast forward over a decade later, I always wonder what became of the woman, or her children who watched their mother being abused repeatedly. I also ask myself why other neighbours and families never did anything about it?
In a country where people grow up with the “mind your business culture”, teaching individuals how to help a friend, neighbour or co-worker who is being abused will go a long way towards curbing the increasing incidents of domestic violence. I believe the situation in that apartment building would have been better managed if one of us had spoken up. Educating people about providing victims with a support system, or referring them to possible help Centres would help stop the increasing numbers of domestic violence cases during this period. One phone call can save a life, be your neighbour’s keeper.
Make penalties for domestic violence consistent and firm – As the UN Secretary-General stated, governments should put women’s safety first, as they respond to the pandemic. In certain areas, penalties for domestic violence are rarely implemented, and in some others, the penalties are next to nothing, or not firm enough to deter abusers. However, it is never too late to take action. No one should be above the law, and if governments or communities would attach importance to the issue of domestic violence, and take steps towards bringing offenders to book, there will be a significant decrease in reported cases.
Do not be afraid to reach out – This is not the time to be quiet about a domestic violence situation at home. Over 20% of the world’s population is currently on lockdown, and there is no definite date set for the lifting of the lockdown in many regions. The world is on a survival mode, and people can only help a situation when they know about it. Victims need to do their part by reaching out to someone through any means available to them.
The lockdown provides easier access to people on the social media space; it also makes friends and family more accessible and ready to listen. However, we must admit that the first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging the existence of one.
Facts and figures by UNWomen estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000 – 58 per cent) were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day.
You can save your life, and that of your kids by taking the crucial step of reaching out to someone today.
By Boma Benjy – Iwuoha