The COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastation so profound that has put a pause to major economic activities worldwide. Businesses closed. Jobs were lost and more families suffered as the pandemic ravaged on.
Adding to the toll of COVID-19 cases is the seemingly increasing number of domestic violence cases in the United States. Domestic violence is a reality, and sadly, with more families staying at home or losing their source of income due to the pandemic, more are experiencing it. The stress that the pandemic has wrought on families has resulted in another escalating problem.
In Boston, as activities were heavily restricted, doctors saw an increase in domestic abuse cases that ended in physical injuries. The injuries were also much more severe, the doctors noted, probably because the victims of abuse have delayed seeking help and care.
Experts are concerned that there are probably more victims than the ones who are coming out and seeking medical care and assistance. While it is easy to advise victims of domestic abuse to come out, seek medical care, seek the legal assistance of a domestic abuse or brain injury attorney if you have sustained head injuries, it is not always so easy on the victim’s part.
Even before the pandemic, most victims of domestic abuse, because of fear or emotional blackmail, choose to stay with the abuser. There may be countless reasons why the victim does not come out to report the abuser. Now, with lockdowns and fear of the virus, another circumstance has made it easier for the abuser not to get reported.
Spouses are Not the Only Victims
Sadly, it is not only the spouses who suffer from domestic abuse. Innocent children can also become victims of this horrible crime. The effects of domestic abuse on children can be more severe. Most cases of domestic abuse involving children are reported by their teachers. Now with children staying at home and studying online, domestic abuse on children can be left undetected. It will only most likely be identified when the child suffers a grave injury that must be given immediate medical attention. By then, it would be too late, and the child has already suffered too much.
It is a Worldwide Problem
The problem is not only experienced in the United States. In Russia for instance, reports of domestic violence have increased during the pandemic. The number of reports doubled from March to April, with the numbers increasing from 6,000 to 13,000. Lockdowns and restrictions have certainly put the victims in an even more vulnerable and helpless situation.
Take the example of a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza Strip. She has been abused by her husband, both verbally and physically in the past. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the abuse became a daily nightmare that she could not seem to escape from. She was afraid to ask for help in fear that her husband would be spying on her whenever she makes a call.
The United Nations also recognizes the threat that women and children are in. According to UN Women, 243 million women and children have been involved in domestic violence as of April this year, for the past 12 months. That number is expected to rise with the pandemic bringing stress to families around the globe. Staying locked at home, whilst facing the problems of looming unemployment and financial problems, is a perfect recipe for violent tendencies and behaviors to arise. It can trap helpless women and children with an abusive partner and parent respectively.
The UN has urged governments to take action and place preventive measures as well as channels where victims can seek help. Hotlines can greatly help since the victims cannot leave home due to restrictions or lack of capacity to do so. For instance, hotlines in Singapore and Australia have received an increase in calls from victims of domestic violence. Support for victims of domestic violence has also evolved since the pandemic started. Guidance and check-ups can be done via Skype, Zoom, or phone calls, to ensure the safety of everyone involved amidst the pandemic.
Why Escape is Much Harder With the Pandemic
Chen, not her real name, is a Chinese woman and a victim of abuse. When she called the police while still holding her 11-month old baby after her husband had beaten her with a high chair, they only recorded the attack. Chen decided to file for divorce. However, with the pandemic still in full force, their court proceedings were postponed. It forced her to stay with her husband for a few more weeks until she found a new home.
Chen had the capacity to hire a lawyer and file for divorce. But countless women do not. They would have to needlessly and silently suffer through every heartbreaking word and physical trauma, which can even lead to serious and lifelong disabilities.
Lockdowns and restrictions are being lifted in most places, and some economies are starting to regroup themselves. But as more and more families are still facing the economic effects of job loss and the anxiety that the pandemic brings, there will always be domestic abuse victims that would need the attention of the government institutions.