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The Shadow Pandemic: Looking at the Facts

Trigger warning: This article contains language about domestic violence and may not be suitable for all readers. 

Pandemic is definitely a word that we’re all getting a little sick of hearing. Some days I want to never say that word again. But, just like every other problem we all have, we can’t ignore it. Especially since there are a number of other issues rippling in the wake of COVID-19, including something called the shadow pandemic. As much as it sounds like a villain in a bootleg superhero movie, the reality is much darker.

For many of us, quarantine is inconvenient. We hate not being able to study at our favorite coffee shops. We hate not being able to see our friends. We hate having to do Zoom classes. However, for many women around the world who are in vulnerable living situations, quarantine was devastating. Their physical safety was compromised by their inability to leave the house.

Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, which is a statistic that is already difficult to wrap your head around. Emerging data is showing that violence against women and girls has intensified worldwide. 

By March of 2020, it was already apparent that violence against women was on the rise. In March alone, France experienced a 30% increase in cases of domestic violence, and Argentina saw a 25% increase in emergency calls for domestic violence cases. In a TED talk, Kemi Desilva-Ibru said that during the first two weeks of lockdown in Lagos State, Nigeria, emergency phones rang non-stop, and “a 64% increase in calls from women trapped at home with their abusers, in fear for their lives” was recorded.

Projections are even showing that for every three months the lockdown continues, 15 million women are expected to be affected by violence. 

It’s really hard to look at these facts, and it’s even harder to realize that we’ve all been ignoring them. With our own increased stress, it can be really difficult to look at an issue as large and widespread as violence against women and girls and try to make a difference. With already strained healthcare resources due to COVID-19, we need to be doing more to address the needs of survivors, and that comes down to even the campus level. Resources for survivors are becoming more and more pertinent as the pandemic persists. We can’t be using this time to ignore gender-based violence.

So, to help those of you who are overwhelmed but still want to help, this is the first article in a three-part series on the shadow pandemic. In the next article, I will be talking about how to help your friends, and finally, how to help yourself.

We all have a role in working to lessen violence against women, we just have to make the decision to listen.
Rachel is studying political science, marketing, and public policy at the University of Alabama, pursuing a career in civil rights law and politics. When she's not busy with school and writing, she advocates for survivors of interpersonal violence through work at the Women and Gender Resource Center and her organization, End The Silence. In her free time, she runs, spends time outdoors, and watches bad tv.
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