By Theresa Zettl
It is expected that Europe will be hit by a fourth wave of Covid-19 by the beginning of autumn. As a result of movement restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of Coronavirus, domestic violence has become more frequent, more severe, and more dangerous in homes.
Lockdowns – a dream come true for abusers?
When we talk about lockdowns to save lives by restricting contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also need to talk about domestic violence during lockdowns.
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in a sharp increase in all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence. But we should also bear in mind that not only women and children are victims. There are also many men who are victims of being emotionally and physically abused by their wives or partners, although the focus is actually more on women than men.
As there are many forms of abuse, which include isolation from friends, family, employers, constant surveillance, it gives the abuser the opportunity to even go further in his/her abusive pattern, when the victims are obliged to stay home due to Covid-19 restrictions. The isolation itself makes it far more difficult for victims to get help or to escape.
Even though lockdowns and other Covid-19 restrictions will eventually end, the danger seems likely to worsen with time passing, as it is more likely that abuser may murder their partners or the victims themselves may commit suicide to get out of this unbearable condition of violence.
How can domestic violence during the pandemic be prevented?
Protection of women from violence will not just end during pandemics. There are shelters for women, counseling services, helplines, legislation, data collection, partnerships with professionals from all sectors, and consultations with perpetrators. But these measurements must be published and promoted so victims are aware of them. In a first step, victims need to know where they can go and ask for help. In a second step, victims shall not feel ashamed or afraid to seek help and support.
Finland, Greece, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Estonia, France, Lithuania and Slovakia have all presented the best practice measures that they implemented during the pandemic, as it was shown during the virtual Informal Meeting of EU Gender Equality Ministers on 20 November 2020. Switzerland, for example, has set up the Task Force “Domestic Violence and COVID-19”, which is meeting on a weekly basis to ensure that all support structures are operating effectively and that the public is informed about the current situation.
The measures the EU countries have taken to protect victims – especially women – can be read here. The United Nations have also put together a FAQ about the signs of relationship abuse and how to help. You will find it here.
If you find yourself in the situation of domestic violence, please do not hesitate to seek help and support. When entering a pharmacy you could ask for “Covid-19 masks” as the staff is trained that this is a code for domestic violence.
Photo by pxhere.com
Theresa Zettl is one of the founders of European Liberals for Reform and wants to raise awareness for health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The opinions on this blog are of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of ELfR.