Crisis within the Crisis- Abuse during the Pandemic

The lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has got us all feeling frustrated, a sense of helplessness looming as the days of isolation seem to keep on increasing. It is no secret that governments all over the world are struggling to deal with the pandemic. Most being underprepared for the colossal task it has become to ensure a nation-wide lockdown, while ensuring the supply of essentials as well as prioritising medical healthcare, in terms of facilities and testing, for patients, doctors, and all essential workers.

However, authorities across the globe have failed to take cognisance of one of the major security concerns during this time of lockdown. Rates of domestic violence and abuse have been reported to spike up ever since the world went into isolation, turning the pandemic into a gruesome experience for a majority of people, especially most womxn out there. Keeping in mind that the world leaders were severely unprepared to deal with Covid-19, this failure to recognise a threat of domestic violence and abuse also adds to the increasing list of concerns that the governments need to prioritise.

This period of isolation came as a shock to many, leaving a high percentage of people feeling hopeless and angered, as panic regarding job security, health concerns and other issues seemed to prevail. The repercussions of this are felt at home, by the womxn and children who are an easy target and a way for the abusers to feel as if they are in control once again. Physical and psychological trauma is often used by the abuser to display power and authority over the victim, and a 24*7 isolation without an escape made the lockdown a living nightmare for victims everywhere.

Reports from hotspots of the virus came in prior to the implementation of the global lockdown; Italy and China facing a stark increase in the number of calls made to distress helplines and the number of complaints and alerts seemed on an all-time high, as compared to the past decade. Italy, one of the primary nations which dealt with the virus without knowledge of what was in store, ended up struggling to reach out and help victims of domestic violence and abuse, later ensuring empty spaces being opened up as shelters for the victims during isolation. Chinese hotlines reported the same increase in numbers of calls made and reported numerous cases of mental and physical abuse faced by several womxn, during their long fight with the virus.

Victims in the United States of America and France face a further delay in justice, as the authorities fail to take stringent actions, despite similar patterns of abuse formerly seen in past events of lockdowns during Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, and so on. Countries like Afghanistan and India, where marital rape is not a recognised offence and a culture of stigma and shame revolving around divorce and separation continues to exist, see a tremendous increase in the cases of domestic abuse and violence being reported. While the actual numbers cannot be tracked, due to most victims failing to notify the authorities out of emotions of guilt, fear, and shame.

In India, most cases are reported from the lower echelons of society, where most men refuse to partake in household work and with the risk of losing employment, leading to them taking advantage of their dominant position within the household, culminating into severe trauma for the womxn and children.

Urban households, too, across the world face challenges when it comes to domestic violence and abuse, as well as emotional and psychological trauma. Several LGBTQ+ helplines also reported an increase in the cases, recognising the fact that queer members of the family are now having to live with conservative, unsupportive families. Men, who are victims of abuse, also face a challenge, as this isolation forces them to interact with their abusers on a daily basis. The situation needing immediate and effective action across the globe.

While the world continues to fight against Covid-19, there are several of us who are fighting an equally scarring personal battle, making it pertinent to acknowledge the failure of governmental action and the need to strategize and implement security measures in times of crisis.

April, being the Sexual Assault Awareness month and a peaking point of the lockdown, makes it imperative for us to recognise the personal challenges posed to the victims, and highlight their enduring strength and need for help by spreading awareness and promoting safe spaces; to acknowledge the crisis within the crisis.

Please spread awareness regarding the helplines aimed at minimising the risk of domestic abuse-

Womxn-centric Helplines: http://www.ncw.nic.in/helplines

LGBTQ+ centric Helplines: https://nazariyaqfrg.wordpress.com/contact/