COVID-19 isolation could create ‘fertile ground for domestic violence’

On the day that France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced sweeping plans to go into a 15-day period of enforced lockdown from Tuesday, concerns also arose as to the potential increase in cases of gender-based domestic violence, following a previous surge in China under similar conditions.

“The crisis that we are going through and the quarantine could unfortunately create a fertile ground of domestic violence,” read a statement from France’s Secretary of State in charge of Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa, adding that with the new quarantine measures in France, “the situation of emergency shelters for female victims of domestic violence is a major concern.”

The statement also recognised that although courts in France are on lockdown, domestic violence cases are still open and being dealt with, and that the government website, Arretons Les Violences is still online, but that the ‘3919’ emergency hotline service for domestic violence victims will be operating under a reduced service.

It is understood the state department will hold talks with the Fédération Nationale Solidarité Femmes on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of keeping the line open.

The French Feminist collective NousToutes also recently highlighted the potential risk of domestic violence cases rising as a result of enforced isolation and called upon victims to make use of the 3919 emergency hotline.

“Being confined at home with a violent man is dangerous. It is not recommended to go out. It is not forbidden to flee. Need help? Call 3919,” a statement from the group on Twitter read.

Not forgetting the victims

Due to the potential stress on public services as part of France’s ongoing battle against the coronavirus outbreak, some in Europe have been calling for the authorities to make sure that the authorities do not lose sight of the work they do in tackling domestic violence.

Amandine Clavaud, policy adviser on Europe and gender equality at the Fondation Jean-Jaurès in Paris told EURACTIV that there is a need for an increase in vigilance on behalf of public bodies, with regards to these types of issues.

“We have to be very attentive to the risks towards women and children amid this crisis, because the work of associations will possibly slow down with the quarantine,” she said.

“In the case where public services reach saturation point, the treatments of domestic violence cases should definitely not be left-behind, but fully part of the whole strategy in dealing with the crisis.”

Crisis abuse cases

Concerns have arisen both in the United States and China with regards to the increase in domestic violence cases that could occur as a result of people in abusive relationships being forced to isolate together, and rights groups in Europe have now started to sound the horn over potential blindspots in this area.

“In times of crisis and natural disasters, there is a documented rise in domestic abuse. As normal life shuts down, victims – who are usually women – can be exposed to abusers for long periods of time and cut off from social and institutional support,” the European Institute for Gender Equality’s Jurgita Pečiūrienė told EURACTIV.

“The financial insecurity that often prohibits domestic violence victims from leaving abusers can also worsen in the aftermath of a crisis,” Pečiūrienė, who specialises in gender-based research, said.

She added that there is a worrying deficit of data in the EU with regards to information sharing in the context of home-based violence amid national crises.

“A lack of data in Europe prevents countries from learning from each other to ensure police and other support services can adapt to changing patterns of domestic violence in times of crisis,” she said.

China & the US

The measures imposed by the Chinese government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak for citizens to self-isolate for 14 days led to a surge in the recorded instances of domestic violence, according to reports from activists working in the country, as well as employees as women’s shelters.

Meanwhile stateside, a statement released by the US National Domestic Abuse Hotline over the weekend noted that domestic violence abusers may seek to capitalise on the forced measures for domestic violence sufferers to isolate themselves.

“Abuse is about power and control. When survivors are forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, an abuser can use any tool to exert control over their victim, including a national health concern such as COVID-19,” the statement read.

“In a time where companies may be encouraging that their employees work remotely, and the CDC is encouraging “social distancing,” an abuser may take advantage of an already stressful situation to gain more control.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]


If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 112 and ask for the police. If you are not in immediate danger and need help or assistance, you are encouraged to contact one of the national women’s emergency helplines found here.  

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