Women urged to use code words at pharmacies to report domestic abuse during coronavirus lockdown

Apart from this, victims and witnesses can also report domestic abuse incidents online


                            Women urged to use code words at pharmacies to report domestic abuse during coronavirus lockdown
(Getty Images)

Lockdown measures and mandatory isolation seem to be the best methods to move forward to contain the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. The imposed restrictions, however, have raised concerns over an increase in domestic violence and abuse.

Countries like France and Australia have reported a spike in domestic violence figures since the outbreak started. Now, France is implementing a novel system to help the victims.

Late in March, the Paris police reported that domestic violence cases had risen by nearly 32 percent in one week in the Gendarmerie zone, and by almost 36 percent where the Paris Police headquarters is located. The sale of alcohol in Aisne in northern France was also restricted as alcohol consumption and inebriation contributed to the rise in domestic violence in households during the coronavirus emergency measures in the country, according to the local police.

Officials in France have now designated pharmacies as places where women can go and report incidents of domestic abuse using a  code word that the pharmacist will understand.

In Nancy, Nothern France, a woman went to a local pharmacy to report about domestic violence on March 28. "The pharmacist then informed the police by phone, thus triggering immediate intervention by the police," Francois Perrain, a prosecutor, told ABC News. The code word “mask 19” can be used by the victim if she is accompanied by her spouse, he had suggested.

The use of a code word is a system already implemented in Spain, one of the countries worst affected by the novel coronavirus.

To reinforce the mechanism, the French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced the possibility to alert the police through a simple text to emergency number 114, “because in any case, the lockdown should not allow conjugal or intrafamily violence."

In the Nancy case, Perrain said, “The victim did not have to resort to any code. She was alone and could speak freely." The alleged attacker has been placed in judicial detention and is forbidden to go back to the family residence until the hearing on June 5.

The rise in domestic violence during the pandemic is not limited just to Europe. In Australia, the government said that Google searches about domestic violence had increased by 75 percent since the first recorded COVID-19 case in the country. The government has introduced a $92 million package to support victims of domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, the lockdown is proving to be fatal for women as a rights group reported 29 deaths of women in March 2020 of which 21 deaths occurred in a 20-day period since March 11 when the government advised its citizens to stay at home to avoid spreading of the virus.

France also has a website on which victims and witnesses can report domestic abuse incidents since it might be easier for them to report abuse online than to make a telephone call during the pandemic quarantine measures.

In addition to encouraging pharmacists to play a roll in the protection of victims, the government also announced it will pay for 20,000 nights in hotel rooms for domestic violence victims and open pop-up counseling centers at supermarkets, according to CNN.

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