Domestic violence cases shoot up as coronavirus lockdown forces victims and abusers to stay together at home

Domestic violence cases shoot up as coronavirus lockdown forces victims and abusers to stay together at home
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Restrictive measures like lockdown and mandatory isolation that have been imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus have raised concerns over the increased risk of domestic violence and abuse. 

France and Australia first reported a spike in domestic violence figures since the outbreak of COVID-19 and issue of stay-at-home orders. As millions of people are starting to isolate within their homes, victims will be trapped in the confines of the four walls. In addition, the lockdown has also intensified alcoholism and mental health problems.

A  new survey conducted in New South Wales concluded that the coronavirus pandemic has affected Australians in dangerous ways, beyond just the infection, 10 Daily, an Australian news outlet has reported. There is a pressure weighing down on the domestic violence workers already. Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) wrote to the Federal government asking for it to take appropriate measures to ensure safety for women and children. The Federal government will be stepping into look over the domestic violence problem that is predicted to increase in the upcoming days.

Women's safety, New South Wales surveyed 400 frontline workers across the state to determine the situation during the coronavirus outbreak. The results show  40 percent of workers have been sent pleas for help, and about 70 percent said that there is a surge in complicated cases.  

"This means more clients with high-complex needs, an increase in escalation of the violence and the abuse, and people are experiencing real difficulties in accessing services," said Hayley Foster, chief executive of Women's Safety NSW to 10 Daily. "People are calling for support and they are having trouble getting through because the lines are clogged up with people trying to get help," she added.

Social distancing and self-isolation have made personal-tending for services difficult, forcing many services to establish themselves an online or phone platform. Foster affirmed that help is of dire need before the situation gets worse.

While the government is imposing these stay-at-home regulations that force women and children to remain indoors with their abusers under one roof, it needs to publicize the safety and support locations where they can seek help. Other forms of aid proposed are urgent funding for emergency accommodation for women trying to escape abuse, capital resource to train and support specialist police officers as well as support for untraceable phone technology.

"We want to see a public education campaign, a public health response that lets everybody know that everybody has a right to be safe in their homes right now, and that no amount of stress justifies violence," Foster said.

Research shows that a forced domestic life and isolation only provokes domestic violence within the household, considering other factors like financial stability and unemployment, which the pandemic has inevitably caused.

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On March 27, Paris police reported that domestic violence had increased by 32 percent in one week in the gendarmerie zone, and by 36 percent where the Paris Police headquarters is located. France is now trying to install a new system, so women can approach their local pharmacies to raise alarm, as they remain open amid the lockdown. This alarm mechanism has already been in use in the Canary Islands, Spain, where women have been using the code words 'Mask 19' at pharmacies to alert the police.

Aisne in northern France has instated a ban on the sale of alcohol as emergency measures are in place due to the pandemic. Consuming alcohol and inebriation are an increasing risk for domestic violence in households, amid the restriction on movement in France, the local police affirmed. Minister of Interior Christophe Castaner has also emphasized that police focus on making significant efforts to track down domestic violence cases.

In the UK, Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall on March 27 addressed the victims of domestic violence impacted by the lockdown.

"This is a hard time for everyone, as we are all asked to stay at home to stay safe. But for some of you it is even harder because home is not a safe place", she said, beginning her message. “I can only imagine that being asked to stay there could feel very isolating and frightening for you and your family. “It may mean spending more time with the person who is harming you."

"If this is your situation, or you are worried about someone else, I want you to know that you are not alone," she went on to add.

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The UN also called for governments all over the world to especially focus on domestic cases emerging from the lockdown. A human rights expert said that they should work towards protecting women and children's rights in these delicate times.

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, said in warning: "It is very likely that rates of widespread domestic violence will increase, as already suggested by initial police and hotline reports. For too many women and children, home can be a place of fear and abuse. That situation worsens considerably in cases of isolation such as the lockdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Governments must not allow the extraordinary circumstances and restrictive measures against COVID-19 to lead to the violation of women's right to a life free from violence", she added.

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