The frequency of domestic violence has increased in recent months. The rise has been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to an expert, the pandemic brewed the ingredients for severe domestic abuse.
The common factors of domestic violence initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic were detailed by a law expert. At the center of these factors has been physical distancing, a measure critical in controlling the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, the measure caused significant stress among people, especially those in manual labor and in poor-income households. The stress they experienced in previous weeks persisted and made them vulnerable to violence.
The True Meaning of Domestic Violence
According to the Women's Aid Federation of England, a UK charity group dedicated to ending domestic violence against women and children, the definition of domestic violence is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercing, degrading, threatening, and expressing violent behavior to a family member, carer, or partner. While the majority of domestic violence involves women perpetrated by men, there are few cases wherein men are the victims. Unfortunately, male victims shun the idea of revealing themselves because of fear of public view. Regardless of gender, domestic violence is a crime and subject to punishment.
As part of modernity in different societies, domestic violence has been defined to cover a variety of examples. The crime is not limited to physical and sexual abuse. It also includes emotional and psychological abuse, harassment and stalking, digital and online abuse, and financial and economic abuse. If proven, the perpetrator will be sentenced to imprisonment or worse, depending on the territory.
Despite the strength of courts in giving justice to victims, survivors of domestic abuse continue to experience the horrid memories of abuse. As such, they need emotional, mental, and social support to properly handle the memories. Otherwise, they may become subject to adverse methods of coping with internal pain.
COVID-19 Triggered Typical Factors of Domestic Violence
The COVID-19 pandemic has given humanity different forms of nightmares in less than six months. From the horrors of job loss to isolation, the disease has quickly turned into something beyond a global health concern. With most sectors offline, millions of people around the globe are at risk of extreme poverty and acute hunger. The primary reason behind that is the double-edged sword called physical distancing. Governments have no choice but to enforce it to prevent dead bodies from piling up. Sadly, governments can only do so much to mitigate its negative effects on the economy.
"Among all of the horrors that COVID-19 has wrought, domestic violence is a growing scourge that lurks in the shadows. Indeed, a stark uptick in reports of domestic violence and abuse (more commonly referred to in clinical settings as 'intimate partner violence' or 'IPV') has recently received national (and even global) attention," wrote Maclen Stanley, a Harvard Law School graduate and Master of Education in Developmental Psychology, as quoted by Psychology Today, a US-based magazine.
Stanley unveiled that new estimates from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showed a disturbing rise in IPV cases. The estimates suggest that in just three months of strict quarantine measures, the rise of IVP would likely be 20% across the globe. That would be equivalent to an additional 15 million cases, at the very least, as a consequence of pandemic-related lockdowns. While the percentage was only a prediction, local-level cases were already reported in some areas and most were linked to staying at home. But IPV should not be a surprise since it could truly occur during crises and natural disasters, wherein jobs and incomes would be crippled.
Stanley detailed the common factors of IPV triggered by the pandemic. These are isolation, stress, economic issues, alcohol consumption, and lack of resources. Isolation alone is enough for perpetrators to victimize their subjects. Those who are already being abused have nowhere to go because leaving homes can be sanctioned. Throughout the duration of lockdowns, victims are at the mercy of their abusers and can only hope that their situation will end soon.
Stress is an expected effect of crises. People who are affected by crises and natural disasters often experience high levels of stress. Physiologically, high levels of stress indicate increased stress hormones, which raises the odds of aggression. Next is economic issues, including joblessness, which can fuel stress, especially among those who earn daily. With workplaces closed, no work means no pay, and no pay means no money to buy food and other basic needs. Without money and food, lots of people are prone to irritation and can easily blame others. The blame may include lashing out at a household member or a partner, which risks IPV.
Another notable factor is alcohol consumption, particularly in cities where selling is not prohibited. Alcoholic drinks can easily fuel anger, irritation, and stress. If alcohol is combined with isolation and economic anxiety, victims who have nowhere to go will likely experience hell on earth. And lastly, the lack of resources within the government creates a hollow in the justice system. Despite courts being open, cases can be delayed since funds are diverted to more urgent tasks. The result is the delay in the capability of advocates and organizations to provide aid to victims. Victims who are severely reliant on the aid will be the most impacted of all.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Family Planning and Domestic Violence
According to the April 27, 2020 estimates of UNFPA, the ongoing pandemic would significantly impact various programs deployed to address different issues, such as family planning and domestic violence. Disruptions to low health services could result in 13 million women unable to use modern contraceptives in a three-month lockdown, 15 million women in a six-month lockdown, 18 million women in a nine-month lockdown, and 20 million in a 12-month lockdown. Disruptions to high health services could lead to 44 million women unable to use the same contraceptives in a three-month lockdown, 47 million women in a six-month lockdown, 49 million women in a nine-month lockdown, and 51 million women in a 12-month lockdown.
For gender-based violence, estimates suggesd that an increase would likely occur from the 2020 to 2021 period. A model calculated the delay induced by COVID-19 and results highlighted about 2 million additional IVP cases within that period. That would mean losing nearly 200 million cases by 2030, which could be averted by current programs.
The risks of serious harm to victims of abuse are incredibly high during lockdowns. Moreover, any of the factors mentioned earlier feed one another. Stress creates alcohol abuse and job loss, and job loss creates stress and alcohol abuse. As such, victims are in dire need of rescue from their abusers.