The novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by WHO on March 11, 2020, even though it was initially reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019. The pandemic caused by SARS-COV-2 has caused worldwide havoc in all possible economic, social, and personal levels.
As confirmed that the virus spreads via droplets dispersed in air generated due to coughing or sneezing by an infected person, the government took strict measures such as lockdown, travel restrictions, quarantine, social isolation, etc., and controlled the spread. These preventive measures require the citizen to stay at home and work from home, as stay home stay safe is the mantra. But is home really a safe place for everyone?
Just like every action has merit and its own demerit, the lockdown has also altered people’s everyday lives, radically making domestic violence a major outcome of the scenario. Domestic violence (DV) is the violence or aggressive behavior happening within a home. It is a broader aspect that includes child abuse as well as intimate partner violence (IPV).
According to CDC, approximately 1 in every four women and 1 in 10 men experience some form of IPV each year. Properly recorded documents are available in countries like China, Brazil, and the US, indicating a double or triple-fold increase in domestic violence cases compared to previous years.
The major reasons for this kind of abuse are an increase in stress due to several reasons. Isolation can result in social, economic, and psychological consequences that act as the catalyst for stress, leading to violence. Due to lockdown, the temporary businesses had to be shut down, which resulted in economic stress and many people becoming unemployed.
People might be comfortable in their workplace or their self-time more, and hence being away from their comfort zone (workplace, close friend) adds to causing depression, anger issues, and stress. Other reasons for such violent behavior towards a partner may be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorder, and the feeling of gaining power and control over others.
Lockdown has introduced a platform for more family time, but lack of peace of mind and stress has resulted in aggravated talks leading to arguments and disagreement, and abuse. In India, according to the NALSA report, the highest number of domestic violence cases are from Uttarakhand, Haryana, and Delhi.
The chairperson of the national commission for women says that Punjab reported the greatest number of Domestic Violence cases via email, over 600 calls to hotlines in Delhi. Home is not always a safe place for everyone, especially a family already in an exploitative relation. As part of lockdown, bars and restaurants are closed, and hanging out in open spaces is prohibited.
People adapt to the negative coping mechanism at home, which is drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. All of these contribute to the factors causing violence. Australia reports an increase of up to 36 % in alcohol sales. Illness or death in a family can cause mental and physical disturbances.
Having kids at home, there is the stress of child care and homeschooling due to increased financial insecurity, responsibility, lack of personal time and freedom.
Parent’s violent behavior can wrongly influence kids at home. There are chances to perpetuate violence in their future relationships and develop harmful mental or behavioral health problems. The child can become a potential perpetrator during adulthood.
In a situation like this of lockdown where there is a lack of support systems, perpetrators abuse their partners more as they can keep them under control by not letting them go outside or contact their family, friends, or relatives who can give support and the fact that it is happening behind doors, going unnoticed even by the neighbors grants them the freedom to act vulgar without scrutiny or consequences.
The victims fear further violence and hence do not reach out for help. Mental illness more than being the reason for such inhuman actions. It is an outcome on the victim. Women Victims of such abuse suffer from trauma, depression, unsafe abortion, eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, mood disorders, sleeplessness, anxiety disorder, cardiovascular disease, suicidal thoughts.
We should understand that these pandemics have a gendered impact, and it is necessary to be acknowledged. Necessary action should be taken by the government and other front-line service providers to control the pandemic’s side impact and mitigate the pandemic. Health facilities and other services provided such as hotlines, counseling centers, shelters should work hand in hand.
Funds should be given to such centers for proper and efficient functioning. Government can come up with services in the covid-19 response plan and strategies so that it becomes accessible. Awareness should be created on the role the neighbors could play in such situations and special guidelines on domestic violence during covid-19 mentioning hotlines, telehealth, first-line psychological support, and how friends and family can help them maintain physical distancing measures.
Victims fear to report or go to hospitals due to the fear of covid-19 also, and so mobile health and telemedicine can act as better aid. As responsible citizens, we should stop giving the idealized representation of home sweet home and ideal healthy family, thus making people less embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it.
On one side, where the entire world is struggling and fighting against covid-19 for the victory of human society and safeguarding the human environment, we should not neglect issues or negative outcomes of the preventive measures taken, making life miserable for the victims of such abuse.
By Arya Suresh Babu
Arya Suresh Babu is from Kerala and has completed her graduation in BSc in Forensic Science from Jain University, Banglore. She is a meticulously committed and dynamic Forensic student with a keen eye for detail as well as unquenchable thirst for research and investigation. Her skills are creativity and lateral thinking, team work and leadership, problem solving and application, concentration and patience, critical and analytical thinking and attention to details.