Government reacts to the coronavirus have forced around a third of the global population to stay indoors, often in cramped, uncompromising and uncomfortable situations.
The day to day business of life as we know it has grinded to a halt from Bangalore to Los Angeles and London to Lagos. But just because we’ve stopped, domestic abuse hasn’t.
Sadly, the lockdown conditions have exacerbated an already existing pandemic, as social distancing and travel restrictions have turned homes into prisons for many.
In the UK this week, a family of four and their dog were found dead at a home in West Sussex. Police are not seeking anyone in relation to the crime.
This week, NHS nurse and mother of three Victoria Woodhall, 31, was stabbed multiple times outside her home in front of horrified neighbours in the village of Middlecliffe South Yorkshire by her husband, Craig Woodhall, a former soldier.
In South Wales, grandmother Ruth Williams, 67 was found unconscious at the home she shared with her husband Anthony Williams, 69, where they had been in quarantine.
She died in hospital in what was Britain’s first self isolating murder.
Campaigners, like Rachel Williams, Uk based author of The Devil At Home, and domestic abuse victim who was shot by her husband and lost her son to suicide fears it’s only the beginning.
“The lockdown is hard for everyone, but if you’re a victim of abuse, it’s hell. You get no downtime. You’re imprisoned with your captor 24/7, with no rest bite when they could be in work, the pub or somewhere else,” she says.
“What’s even worse, is that children will be at home from school in less than ideal circumstances. Often they won’t get fed, and experience things they should be experiencing. But, victims and perpetrators need to know that the police will come and they will force the door down regardless. They have the staff. They will do it.”
An estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019.
Most people will react with the statement- “Why don’t they just leave?’ That’s hard at the best of times, especially as governments have cut the number of refuge places available to victims.
Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel wrote in her column in the Mail on Sunday. “My message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.”
The only problem is that due to government austerity measures, there’s a chronic shortage of refuges, with local authority spending cut from £31.2m in 2010 to £23.9m in 2017, forcing several to close their doors in recent years and turning people away.
Domestic Abuse around the world in the era of Covid 19
But, UK victims aren’t the only ones being turned away. Around the world 137 women die at the hands of a family member- roughly one third by their partner or ex husband- thats over 30,000 women per year.”
Since the lockdown, the situation will worsen if previous lockdowns are anything to go by.
China saw a threefold increase in cases of domestic abuse reported in February 2020 compared to February 2019.
Founder of an anti-domestic violence nonprofit in Jingzhou, central Hubei province, Wan Fei, told Sixth Tone, a Chinese publication, which ‘covers issues from the perspectives of those most intimately involved to highlight the nuances and complexities of today’s China’ that reports of domestic violence had increased in his local police station.
He said the police station in Jianli County, Jingzhou, had received 162 reports of domestic violence in February — three times more than the 47 in February 2019. “The epidemic has had a huge impact on domestic violence. According to our statistics, 90 percent of the causes of violence are related to the COVID-19 epidemic,” he told the online publication.
In the US, true to form, Americans have taken to buying guns. Larry Hyatt, owner of one of the country’s largest gun shops, Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Guardian that the scenes of mass buying at his store were “virtually unprecedented. “This is only the second time in my 61 years of business that we’ve seen anything like this,” he said. Seeing as Covid 19 is invisible, we shall soon be finding out how aggressive trigger happy Americans, desperately looking to find someone to blame for being locked up will turn on family members.
WBO super middleweight champion, Billy Joe Saunders gave advice to men on how to hit their female partners if tempers flared during the coronavirus lockdown, should they want to use their fist instead of their firearm for a change.
Video footage showed the 30-year-old working out on a punch bag, stating “your old woman is giving you mouth” and “she’s coming at you, spitting a bit of venom in your face”.
Then the boxer demonstrated on the punchbag how to “hit her on the chin” and then “finish her off”. Once the expected backlash ensued, he posted on Twitter that he “Would never condone domestic violence and if I saw a man touch a woman I would smash him to pieces myself.. “Apologies if I offended any women, stay blessed.”
Yeah thanks. No doubt the women of India, who are on lockdown for three weeks will be delighted with your blessing. According to statistics, a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes, and the country is the most dangerous in the world to be a woman, so the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Dehli- a city of 19.9 million people is the rape capital of the world.
The people in the world’s second most densely populated country with a population of 1.3 billion were only given a few hours’ warning to ‘get ready’ by their Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said that “Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.” The human rights violations that will occur in the coming weeks behind closed doors will never be revealed to their full extent, ‘blessings’ from angry boxers or not.
In Ireland, the number of calls to the children’s charity Childline increased by nine percent, visits to the Childline website increased by 26 per cent since school closures, while the number of children availing of Childline’s text support service increased by almost 20 per cent.
An ISPCC spokeswoman said young people were contacting Childline to discuss the coronavirus, family relationships, anxiety and worry.
What advice is there to victims.
The number one question people always ask in situations of domestic violence is – why don’t you just leave? That’s hard enough in normal life, but, when people are on lockdown, especially in countries with poor human rights records, it’s impossible.
But victims of violence, most of whom are women have been told they are not alone and 24 hour helplines exist. In France, where a twenty percent increase in cases has been reported, women have been urged to call 3919 hotline, under the banner of “It is not forbidden to flee.” “The crisis that we are going through and the quarantine could unfortunately create a fertile ground of domestic violence,” France’s Secretary of State in charge of Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa,” said in a statement, adding that “the situation of emergency shelters for female victims of domestic violence is a major concern.”
In the UK, the charity Refuge ensures victims can reach out. “Any woman who is afraid of their partner can call the national domestic abuse helpline.” Refuge, like many charities around the world, have websites with Covid 19 guidelines, and hotlines, open 24 hours.
But victims need more than hotlines. They need somewhere to go. They need new forms of communication, they need friends. “Why not just open the hotel rooms for people in need. Why not give them phones. If you think your friend or neighbour is being abused, now might be the time they want help,” Williams suggests.
We’ve all become very insular, and fearful of people, keeping two meters distance, trying not to look up when we’re shopping, or crossing the road when someone comes towards us.
But that shouldn’t stop us from asking -‘ are you ok?’ We have the social media means to do it. Governments across the globe made rash decisions to save lives, but by doing so, others could be taken.